big butterfly count

Help us take nature's pulse by joining the . Find out more about this project


big butterfly count 2013

UK butterflies were desperately in need of a good summer after a series of poor years culminating in the appalling weather of 2012 reduced their populations to a record low. The big question for big butterfly count 2013, therefore, was whether they could bounce back?

Thankfully, summer 2013 provided perfect conditions for butterflies and butterfly counting. Butterfly numbers boomed in the hot, sunny weather and record-breaking numbers of people took part in big butterfly count to help us chart the upturn in fortunes of these beautiful creatures.

Already the biggest survey of butterflies in the world, big butterfly count set a new benchmark in 2013, with the project’s most successful results to date.

Over 46,400 people took part this year (72% more than in 2012), completing almost 44,500 counts of butterflies and moths right across the UK (click here to see the interactive map for 2013) – that’s equivalent to over 11,000 hours of butterfly counting!

Over 70,000 people visited the big butterfly count website between April and August and the new Smartphone apps were downloaded 5,500 times. Fifteen percent of all counts this year were submitted directly from participants’ phones using the new apps.

During the official big butterfly count period (20 July - 11 August) almost 833,000 individual butterflies and moths of the 21 target species were counted and logged online. That’s nearly four times as many as in the previous year.

Butterflies bounce back

Thanks to the many thousands of people who took part in big butterfly count 2013 we can see just how well common species fared this summer.

On average, participants saw 23 individual butterflies and moths of the 21 target species per count this year, compared to only 13 individuals per count in 2012.

This massive increase in abundance was reflected across most of the target species and was particularly surprising considering how poor the weather was during previous breeding seasons (whether last summer or this spring). Almost three quarters of species (15 of the 21 target species) showed year on year increases and 12 of them increased by more than 50% compared with 2012.

The ‘whites’ did really well, with Brimstone (380% increase on 2012), Large White (335% up), Small White (312% up) and Green-veined White (214% up) all substantially up on last year.

Although Small White and Large White were the most abundant species recorded, it was Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell that really stole the show for many people this summer. Peacock numbers increased by over 3,500% compared with big butterfly count 2012 and Small Tortoiseshells were up by 388%. This is very welcome news for two much-loved butterflies that have declined dramatically in recent years.

Both of the migratory species included in big butterfly count also did much better this year compared with 2012. The Painted Lady butterfly and Silver Y moth, both of which undertake long-distance migration into and out of the UK each year, increased substantially (by 380% and 378% respectively).

Species results 2013

The whites once again took command at the top of the big butterfly count chart this year, displacing the ‘browns’ that had done so well in 2012. Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell, 3rd and 6th respectively, both achieved their highest placing since big butterfly count began. The 2013 results for all 21 of the big butterfly count target butterfly and moth species are shown below:


Species

Grand total

% change from 2012

1

Small White

154438

312

2

Large White

136944

335

3

Peacock

130796

3537

4

Meadow Brown

88547

-33

5

Gatekeeper

76935

15

6

Small Tortoiseshell

49418

388

7

Green-veined White

38988

214

8

Ringlet

31206

-52

9

Six-spot Burnet

18681

-23

10

Comma

17230

101

11

Red Admiral

17036

69

12

Common Blue

10961

68

13

Speckled Wood

10717

31

14

Large Skipper

9509

-11

15

Marbled White

8586

-59

16

Brimstone

7529

380

17

Silver Y

7421

378

18

Painted Lady

6685

307

19

Small Copper

5422

31

20

Holly Blue

3294

-5

21

Wall

2477

54

The Top 10 species for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can be found here.

Surprise decreases

Given the amazing abundance of many butterflies this summer, it was somewhat surprising that any declined compared with the washout summer of 2012. Yet, the species that had done unexpectedly well last year all fell back. Meadow Brown, numbers of which decreased by a third compared to 2012, and in particular Marbled White (59% down) and Ringlet (52% down) suffered substantial year on year declines. Perhaps their larvae suffered reduced survival during the long, cold winter and spring. Six-spot Burnet moth numbers also fell this summer (by 23%).

 

The big butterfly count will return again next summer to enable us to identify longer term trends in our butterfly species. With your help, we can make it even bigger and better in 2014.

What you said about big butterfly count 2013

As always we had lots of very interesting and supporting comments from people taking part in this year's big butterfly count and wanted to share a few with you:

“Very happy to participate as it is a terrific activity to get a look at how our environment is doing.” Ms C., Devon

“As a tourist, educator, and butterfly conservationist myself, it was a thrill to participate as we travelled through Scotland.  It made our family vacation that much more special.” Ms W., USA

“Great family fun on a lovely sunny day” Mr C., Surrey

“Great fun and it stimulated interest in butterflies for my eight year old daughter.” Ms B., Co. Down

“It makes people discover nature and what's on their doorstep, and is an excellent way to get everyone involved” Mr L., Cambridgeshire

“Once we were actively looking for them it was amazing how any we saw!” Mr C., Edinburgh

“We really enjoyed doing it in our school wood and we found 7 different butterflies” Ms P., Greater Manchester

“I saw more butterflies in my garden than ever before.  Literally, the air was filled with them...I am really encouraged by this huge increase in numbers and hope that it will help in their recovery.” Ms F., Somerset

 “...was keen to do my bit to help these amazing creatures. The Big Butterfly Count is so worthwhile for all ages” Ms N., Newport

Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and queries. Unfortunately we are unable to respond to them individually and we hope that this website and the monthly All Aflutter e-mail newletters will help to answer some of your questions.

More detail

Please remember to look at the interactive map page where you can see all the sightings from 2013's big butterfly count and explore the data by species, date period or habitat type.

Thank you once again for taking part in this year’s record-breaking big butterfly count, the biggest butterfly event of its kind in the world, and enabling us to assess how butterflies and moths have recovered this summer. Make sure you and your friends and family take part in Big Butterfly Count 2014.

See results for your country



The has been brought to you by: