JOIN IN THE BIG BUTTERFLY COUNTJessica Peace
The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ finishes on August 12th, so if you’ve not begun counting already then you still have time to join in the WORLD’S BIGGEST butterfly survey.
WHY GET COUNTING?
Well apart from a bit of fun – and doing something alongside David Attenborough, a big advocate of the count – the health of the butterfly population is a pretty much spot on way of telling the health of the UK’s wildlife at large. Butterflies have an incredibly rapid response to environmental changes. Essentially, if butterflies are thriving then nature is, but if they are in-decline then we can expect problems amongst other species of wildlife to follow.
HOW TO GET COUNTING…
Whether you have your own garden, a few pots, a local park or just a window to stare out of while you drink your morning coffee (or early evening vino), you can have a go. Go to the website https://www.bigbutterflycount.org/about and download the app, or print yourself off a record sheet. Then all you need is 15 minutes – and maybe a pen, have a seat and just watch. Don’t panic if you’re new to butterfly spotting, the sheet and app include images of all the butterflies and day-flying moths you might see. A few of us here have started and it’s creating quite a flap! Don’t be shy, please swing by and tell us how you’re getting along and join in the healthy competition!
ONES TO WATCH
Although they’ve been coming up top in our counts, last year marked a frightening decline for the white butterfly, with the large, small and green-veined butterflies all decreasing by around 40%.
Green Veined White
THE PEACOCK AND THE TORTOISESHELL
The peacock, the red one with those big blue eyes we all know so well, and the small tortoiseshell with its luminous orange wings and large black splotches, have also been in decline for the last decade. But we’ve got our fingers (and wings) crossed for this year.
LAST YEAR’S WINNER
The Common Blue was last year’s winner, increasing from 2016 by over 100%, we salute you lovely blue!
We’ve been looking through our charts and although it prefers a life by the sea to the big city, we are hoping to catch a glimpse of the ‘Six-spot Burnet’. This stunning moth looks like it flew through a highlighter factory with its vivid blue and pink wings. Cosmic!
BUTTERFLY OR DAY-FLYING MOTH?
We think of butterflies as being daytime creatures and moths as loving the nightlife, but actually in Britain we are more likely to spot a moth in the daytime as we have a larger population of ‘day-flying’ moths than night. Who knew?! So, what’s the difference? Moths appear to be fuzzier, but in their early stages the moth wraps itself in a silky smooth cocoon whilst the butterfly hangs about in its hard chrysalis. At rest the moth’s wings are flat, whereas unless they’re basking in the sun the butterfly snaps their wings up. You’ll also notice that the moth’s ‘forewing’ is joined to its ‘hindwing’.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO TO HELP?
Plant, get a bit wilder and drop those nasty sprays. When we think about the animal world it’s a good idea to bring it closer to home. Think about what we as humans need to survive… primarily food and shelter. As gardeners that makes our job easy. Try and plant nice open blooms so the butterflies can access the nectar, their food source. Plant for a long flowering season so you are providing for the early emerging species, but also for the ones that turn up hungry at the end of summer. For big, easy to grow blooms, get your hands on buddleja (‘the butterfly bush’), valerian, scabious, marjoram and lavender. For shelter, let your garden go a little. Allowing for overgrown areas creates homes for butterflies and insects – we need to get a bit ‘wilder’ to help the ‘wild’ life. Finally, we wouldn’t want to be sprayed with something nasty as we’re going about our business, so keep your chemicals to a minimum and use organic if you can. When we’ve exhausted all other methods we rely on the Solabiol and Graziers ranges for a natural, but a bit heftier, solution.
But enough talking … get out there and get counting!
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