Butterfly Conservation President Sir David Attenborough is warning that butterflies on the Isle of Wight face a critical summer following a string of poor years that has seen the numbers of many common species crash.
Launching the world’s largest butterfly survey, The Big Butterfly Count, Sir David is urging the public to take part by spending 15 minutes counting butterflies between 14th July to 6th August. Results of the Count will help butterfly scientists find out how butterflies are faring and where conservation efforts should be targeted in the future.
Families on the Isle of Wight are being invited to take part during the first weekend at Parkhurst Forest, where a guided butterfly walk is running tomorrow (Saturday 15th July) from 13:00. A free event is also taking place at Totland Bay on Friday 4th August from 10:30.
Sir David said:
“The next few weeks are a vital period for our butterflies. They need to make the most of this chance to feed and breed.
“Last year, despite a warm summer, butterflies like the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper saw their numbers fall as a warm winter and cold spring earlier in the year led to problems that affected their numbers later on.
“Worryingly, we are now seeing the fortunes of some of our once common butterflies mirror those of our rarest species and they too are now also suffering significant declines with butterflies declining more rapidly in urban areas than in the countryside.
“In the last decade our butterflies have experienced several poor years and although resilient, they simply cannot sustain repeated losses, especially if the habitats they need in order to rebuild their populations are also under threat.”
More than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years with some common species, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, suffering significant slumps.
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording said:
“With increasing numbers of our common and widespread butterflies in long-term decline, Big Butterfly Count is more important than ever. Simply taking 15 minutes out of your normal day to enjoy the sunshine and count butterflies can help us monitor their populations. It’s a win-win for wildlife.”
Sir David added:
“Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is good for butterflies and it is also good for us all. The Count is good for butterflies because your sightings will tell us which species need help and in which areas we need to help them.
“But the Big Butterfly Count is also good for you because 15 minutes spent watching butterflies in the summer sunshine is priceless; spending time with butterflies lifts the spirits and reinvigorates that sense of wonder in the natural world.”
Taking part in the Count is easy – find a sunny spot and spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.