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Butterfly numbers lowest on record as experts warn of ‘perilous’ state of UK wildlife

Written by on 28/09/2020

Butterfly numbers have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade, with campaigners saying it shows the “perilous state of wildlife” in the UK.

Figures released by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation revealed that during the summer there was a 34% reduction in butterflies compared with 2019.

In July and August, the Big Butterfly Count was enjoyed by record numbers of people in parks, woodlands, nature reserves and gardens.

More than 1.4 million butterflies were counted – the lowest since the survey started 11 years ago.

Scientists say they are analysing the information to “understand what is happening” and “how we can work to solve it”.

Butterfly Conservation said the number counted may have been lower partly because a warm spring led many species to emerge earlier.

The Holly Blue butterfly saw the biggest increase in its numbers this summer compared with the figures compiled in 2019
Image: The Holly Blue butterfly saw the biggest increase compared with 2019. Pic: Butterfly Conservation

Earlier this month, a report by conservation group WWF said global wildlife populations had collapsed by 68% since 1970 – while the UN called for action to stop the destruction of the natural world.

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Dr Zoe Randle, the senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation, said: “Unfortunately, this summer has not seen an abundance of butterflies across the UK.

“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.”

More than 110,000 people took part in registering nearly 150,000 15-minute butterfly counts for the survey this year – an increase of 25% on 2019.

There was a 99% drop in sightings of the Painted Lady butterfly compared with 2019, while the species which enjoyed the biggest rise was Holly Blue with 48%.

 Sky News

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