The UK’s 4th annual Big Butterfly Count has been underway for almost a week now but its not too late to get involved.
The Big Butterfly Count, run by Butterfly Conservation, started in 2010 and has quickly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and day-flying moths, with over 46,000 people taking part last year. This year it is running from the 19th July to the 10th August.
— G Sapsed (@tiger8lotus) July 16, 2014
Butterflies are brilliant, but the data collected from this survey is important for more than just butterfly conservation. Butterflies are indicator species; meaning that their presence helps give an indication of the health of the local ecosystem as a whole. They are also important pollinators of many plants, both ornamental and agricultural. And the caterpillars provide an essential food source for young birds that need to fatten up for winter. So it’s clear that the more butterflies, and the more different butterfly species, the better, but is this what we are seeing? The data you collect will be used to help identify changes in butterfly populations and ascertain where conservation efforts should be aimed. The effects of urban and industrial development, as well as climate change, may have a negative impact on British butterflies. Locally isolated species like the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) may suffer from habitat loss. So it’s important to identify such at risk species or populations and how they are coping, in order to best direct conservation efforts. It’s very easy to get involved. Simply pick a sunny 15 minutes in the vicinity of some flowers and count all the butterflies you see. You can do it anywhere! Parks, school grounds, gardens, fields, forests, wherever you like! You can download an ID chart from www.bigbutterflycount.org to help you identify the butterflies you see. You can submit your results online on the big butterfly count website, or download the free Big Butterfly Count app to submit results wherever you are. When you’ve done it once, do it again. Try a different location or a different day, the more times you take part, the more data collected for the survey, and it’s a great chance to improve your butterfly ID skills as well.
Peacock – Inachis Io (Photo by Patrick Fenner)
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