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Photo: Tim Melling

Sir David Attenborough has spoken of the mental health benefits of watching butterflies as he urged people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to take part in the world’s biggest butterfly survey over the next 3 weeks.

The UK’s butterflies are basking in the best summer conditions for more than a decade, with hot sunny weather enabling widespread species to fly, feed and breed.

The Big Butterfly Count has been officially launched for 2018 and Butterfly Conservation President Sir David said that taking part not only generates important data on butterflies, but also provides participants with precious time out from the stresses of life.

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2018’s count is set to be the world’s largest butterfly survey, which encourages people to spot and record 17 species of common butterflies and 2 day-flying moths during 3 weeks of high summer. People are encouraged to take part at home in their gardens, in a nearby park or while out walking the dog.

A special butterfly count event is taking place on Tuesday 7th August at Mottistone Down near Brighstone, between 10:20 and 13:30. More information can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org/HampshireCountEvents.

Research has indicated that spending time in nature, for example watching wildlife, can have positive benefits for mental health and wellbeing.

Sir David explained:

“I have been privileged to have witnessed some truly breath-taking wildlife spectacles in far-flung locations but some of my most memorable experiences have happened when I’ve been simply sitting and watching the wildlife that lives where I do.

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“A few precious moments spent watching a stunning Red Admiral or Peacock butterfly feeding amongst the flowers in my garden never fails to bring me great pleasure.

“Spending time with nature offers us all precious breathing space away from the stresses and strains of modern life, it enables us to experience joy and wonder, to slow down and to appreciate the wildlife that lives side-by-side with us.”

So far this year the UK has experienced the perfect combination of a cold winter and warm, settled late spring and summer enabling spring butterflies to thrive. Species such as Holly Blue, the common whites, Red Admiral and Common Blue could all be in for a bumper Big Butterfly Count.

But if the hot weather develops into a drought, the consequences could be catastrophic for butterflies as plants wither away and the next generation of butterfly caterpillars starve to death. Butterfly populations collapsed for this reason after the 1976 drought.

Sir David added:

“A cause for great concern over recent years is that many of our once common and widespread species like the Large White, Small Copper and Gatekeeper have started to struggle, mirroring the declines of rarer species. Butterfly Conservation has also revealed that butterflies are declining faster in our towns and cities than in the countryside.

“So please take part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer, we need to know now, more than ever before just what is happening to butterflies in our towns, in our gardens and in our countryside. Your records can help us gather vital information that may help protect them in the future.

“Get out for the Big Butterfly Count, it’s good for them and it’s good for you.”

The Count runs from 20th July to 12th August. Taking part in the Count is easy – find a sunny spot anywhere in the UK 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.

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