Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Big Butterfly Count 2016

The 2016 Big Butterfly Count has just published its results. According to the Big Butterfly Count 2016 Results page, 36,400 people carried out 38,233 15-minute counts from July the 15th to August the 7th.

Holly Blue, 25 July 2016.

Considering just the counts I did in our own garden:
  • 2014: 10 counts, 10 species of butterfly, 66 records
  • 2015: 12 counts, 13 species of butterfly, 108 records as well as some moths
  • 2016: 12 counts, 8 species of butterfly, 50 records and a 6-spot burnet moth.
So this year's count was lower than previous years.  It seems that others had the same experience.  The results page says:

The average number of individual insects of the 20 target species seen per 15 minute count during big butterfly count 2016 was the lowest recorded since the project began in 2010.

Large White, 25 July 2016.
In my garden, nearly half the butterflies I counted were large whites. This species was slightly more numerous than last year, whereas numbers of the others had dropped dramatically.

Butterflies recorded during 12 counts in our Uckfield garden.

In 2015, gatekeepers had been the most numerous butterfly in both: my counts (47 individuals) and nationally. However this year this species had tumbled to a miserable 4th in both.  I've certainly missed seeing them dancing in our front gateway.

Speckled Wood, 31 July 2016.
On the other hand another dancer, the Speckled Wood, did really well in my 2016 counts - it came joint second with the Meadow Brown. I counted 11 individuals this year, compared to 2 last year. The national count recorded a small (12%) increase.

Red Admiral, 21 July.
Sadly, most of the big colourful butterflies were missing from our garden counts this year. No Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells or Commas - all of which I counted in 2014 and 2015. We did have 3 Red Admirals - but that compares to  8 last year and 4 in 2014. Nationally numbers were up a by 70%.

An Guardian article on the Big Butterfly Count says:

“The drop in butterfly numbers this summer has been a shock,” said Richard Fox of Butterfly Conservation. “When we have cold, wet summers, as in 2012, we expect butterfly populations to plummet, but that wasn’t the case this year."

“The summer months were warmer than usual, yet most Big Butterfly Count participants saw fewer butterflies. Perhaps the very mild winter had a negative effect, or the cold spring, or perhaps the impacts of intensive farming and pesticides are really hitting these common species now.”

We can only hope for better next year.