By Charlotte Owen
August is the peak season for butterflies and despite the less-than-summery weather we've been having lately, it's been warm and sunny this year and butterflies seem to be doing well. Hopefully this will be a bumper butterfly summer because last year was one of the worst on record. In typically British fashion one of the main problems seems to be the weather – or more accurately, our changing climate. We’re experiencing increasingly mild winters, and while this might sound like good news for butterflies the result tends to be the opposite, with increased reports of disease, predation and disrupted overwintering behaviour. Last year’s mild winter was followed by an unseasonably cold spring, which delayed emergence and gave butterflies even less time than usual to complete the important business of finding a mate and laying their eggs - not something that butterflies are keen to do on wet and windy summer days.
To find out exactly how the UK’s butterflies are faring, Butterfly Conservation coordinates an annual Big Butterfly Count and this year's survey has been the biggest yet, with more than 50,000 individual 15 minute surveys undertaken during July and August 2017. This simple citizen science provides valuable data about our butterfly populations and, because they are so sensitive to environmental change, it also helps monitor the health of our wider environment – a bit like the canary in the coal mine.
There are still plenty of butterflies on the wing and rarities like the Swallowtail and Camberwell Beauty have been spotted recently in Sussex. Whatever you spot, you can submit your sightings via our online recording form.