Worrying Trend in Big Butterfly Count’s 2020 Survey

The 2020 Big Butterfly Count is the lowest recording of butterflies since the project started 11 years ago.

Butterfly recording photo credit: Butterfly Conservation

It has seen a reduction in the average number of butterflies logged per count of -34% in comparison with 2019 .

Over 1.4 million butterflies were counted across the UK in a project where people take part in an annual survey.

In Scotland 3,207 people took part. The most widely counted butterfly in the Big Butterfly Count in Scotland was Small Tortoiseshell, almost 5,000 individuals were seen.

Dr Zoë Randle, Senior Surveys Officer at Butterfly Conservation said:

“Unfortunately, this summer has not seen an abundance of butterflies, across the UK. We do see peaks and troughs of butterfly numbers each year (last year for example we saw a huge influx of migrant Painted Lady butterflies), so the data from the Big Butterfly Count is an important snapshot which, along with our other monitoring schemes, helps our understanding of the rates of decline of butterflies and moths.

“Coming so shortly after the recent WWF and UN reports on the global biodiversity crisis these 2020 results illustrate the perilous state of wildlife in the UK. However, the fact that so many people take part in this exciting citizen science initiative is encouraging and makes a huge difference to our understanding of how the natural world is responding to the crisis it is in.

“Now we need to see initiatives both here and across the world to put nature on a path to recovery.

“The fall in butterfly numbers this summer may be due to a number of factors. An unusually warm spring led many species to emerge earlier than usual. So we may have only caught the tail-end of the flight period for many species during this year’s Big Butterfly Count.

“It’s important to look at butterfly trends over longer periods, so our scientists will be using these results alongside our other datasets to get a clearer understanding of what is happening.”

111,628 people in the UK took part in the Big Butterfly Count which takes place between 17 July and 9 August 2020 .

There is a free iRecord Butterflies app that people can download if they wish to continue recording sightings.

Small Copper butterfly Credit: Mairi McIntosh

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