Monday, September 19, 2011

Butterfly numbers fall after coldest summer in two decades

Common blue butterflies were the biggest losers from the coldest summer for almost two decades, with numbers tumbling by almost two-thirds, experts have said.

The results of the Big Butterfly Count 2011 revealed that the number of individual butterflies seen by each person counting the insects was down 11 per cent on last year.

The common blue saw numbers tumble by 61 per cent in the count, which involved more than 34,000 people across the country recording sightings of 322,000 butterflies.

Experts at wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation say they had expected a bumper summer for butterflies after a record-breaking hot, dry spring, but the cold summer with prolonged spells of rain hit the insects.

In cold, rainy weather they are unable to fly, feed, find mates or lay eggs.

It was not all bad news for butterflies though, with perennial garden favourite the Red Admiral numbers almost doubling (up 98 per cent), while small tortoiseshells saw their numbers stabilise after recent severe declines.

The small tortoiseshells also experienced something of a north/south divide with three times as many of the butterflies recorded per count in Scotland than in England. more