Friday, 22 December 2017

Results of the 2017 Big Butterfly Count


This report is taken from the website of Butterfly Conservation:

The curse of the UK summer holiday weather struck big butterfly count 2017. For butterflies and butterfly counters, July and August were dominated by unsettled weather and above average rainfall. Overall it was one of the wettest UK summers for 100 years. And this after six months (January-June) of above average monthly temperatures, which encouraged butterflies to emerge earlier than usual.

The combined impacts of this topsy-turvy weather were to reduce the numbers of butterflies seen during big butterfly count 2017, both because the abundance of some species was reduced by the summer weather and because others had come out early and were already past their peak numbers when the count started.

Despite an amazing 550,000 individual insects of the 20 target species being spotted during big butterfly count 2017, the average number of individuals seen per 15 minute count was the lowest recorded since the project began in 2010! A mere 10.9 individuals per count were recorded, down from 12.2 in 2016. Indeed the average number of individual butterflies per count has decrease in each year of big butterfly count since 2013, when over twice as many butterflies were seen per count compared with 2017.

One of the stars of the summer was the Red Admiral. After a good year in 2016, numbers of this powerful, migratory butterfly soared during 2017, recording its best ever big butterfly count performance. Numbers of Red Admirals were up 75% compared with the 2016 Count and threefold compared with 2015. Its success wasn’t restricted to the south either, Red Admiral did well in Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2017.

Another winner was the Comma, which profited from the warm spring by producing a bumper summer generation. It bounced back strongly (up by 90%) from a relatively poor year in 2016, recording its second best big butterfly count ever.

Common Blue and Small Copper, both of which did terribly during big butterfly count 2016, increased strongly, up 109% and 62% respectively, although their populations weren’t particularly large compared with some other previous years.

The Gatekeeper was another species that did very badly in 2016, but which showed a good improvement in big butterfly count 2017, up 24% year on year. Indeed, it topped the big butterfly count chart for the third time in 2017. 

It wasn’t all good news though. The three common ‘whites’ all decreased compared with 2016 and seemed thin on the ground. The Green-veined White, which was down 38% on 2016, recorded its lowest abundance in the eight years of big butterfly count. Both the Large White and Small White suffered their second worst big butterfly count performances, and numbers dropped by 38% and 37% respectively compared with 2016. Interestingly, this did not appear to be the case in Northern Ireland, where counts of both Large and Small Whites increased substantially on 2016.

There was no good news for the Small Tortoiseshell, which has been the source of much concern over the past decade or so, or the beautiful Peacock, both of which remained at low levels, very similar to those recorded during big butterfly count 2016.

The 2017 results for all 20 of the Big Butterfly Count target butterfly and moth species are shown below:

1 Gatekeeper 93171 +24%
2 Red Admiral 73161 +75%
3 Meadow Brown 69528 -23%
4 Small White 61812 -37%
5 Large White 61064 -38%
6 Peacock 29454 +1%
7 Comma 22436 +90%
8 Small Tortoiseshell 20267 +4%
9 Common Blue 19567 +109%
10 Speckled Wood 18639 +15%
11 Ringlet 18381 -57%
12 Green-veined White 16456 -38%
13 Six-spot Burnet 9517 -28%
14 Painted Lady 8737 +31%
15 Large Skipper 6579 -49%
16 Holly Blue 5929 -5%
17 Small Copper 5814 +62%
18 Brimstone 5281 -7%
19 Marbled White 4894 -67%
20 Silver Y 1923 -2%

At New Ferry Butterfly Park Annual Counts have been carried out since 2002.

The results for 2017 are shown below with 2016 numbers in brackets.

1. Speckled Wood 165 (66)
2. Large White 50 (50), Small White 50 (41)
4. Common Blue 48 (11)
5. Gatekeeper 42 (20)
6. Meadow Brown 28 (43), Orange Tip 28 (25), Brimstone 28 (35).
9. Holly Blue 22 (12)
10. Red Admiral 21 (1)
11. Comma 18 (27)
12. Small Tortoiseshell 10 (29)
13. Green- veined White 9 (26)
14. Peacock 7 (6), Small Skipper 7 (20)
16. Large Skipper 6 (0)
17. Small Copper 2 (1), Painted Lady 2 (2)

In line with Butterfly Conservation findings Red Admiral, Common Blue and Gatekeeper numbers showed an increase, but Comma and Small Copper numbers were down. Large White and Small White numbers were very similar to last year but Green-veined White numbers showed a decrease like the national picture. As found nationally, numbers of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacocks were also low.

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