big butterfly count

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A huge thank you for taking part in Big Butterfly Count 2012

The awful weather and its impact on butterflies is the big story from Big Butterfly Count 2012. After a terrible spring, we and the butterflies suffered the wettest summer for over 100 years. As well as the rain, temperatures and sunshine levels were well below average in almost all parts of the UK. However, many thousands of people defied the weather, found sunny moments and took part in the Big Butterfly Count, the biggest butterfly count in the world.

Nearly 27,000 people took part this year, completing almost 24,500 counts of butterflies and moths right across the UK (click here to see maps for 2012) - an amazing achievement considering the weather!

During the official Big Butterfly Count period (14 July - 5 August) more than 223,000 individual butterflies and moths of the 21 target species were counted and logged on the website.

Butterflies decline in washout summer

In keeping with comments received from thousands of Big Butterfly Count participants, many common butterfly species were much less abundant this summer. Almost three quarters of species (15 of the 21 target species) showed year on year declines and 11 of them decreased by more than one third compared with 2011.

Common Blues decreased substantially (50% decrease) for the second year running, as did the three common 'whites' (each by at least 33%), Brimstone (53% down) and Holly Blue (42% down). Numbers of Speckled Wood and Red Admiral, both of which had done well in the summer of 2011, fell back sharply, with numbers down by 65% and 72% respectively on Big Butterfly Count 2011.

Peacock numbers were substantially down in Big Butterfly Count 2012 (by 89% compared with 2011), but this may be overly pessimistic because of their delayed emergence this year and possible immigration into eastern England from continental Europe.

Results 2012

It was all change at the top of the Big Butterfly Count chart this year, with Meadow Brown taking the top spot in commanding style. Almost twice as many Meadow Browns were counted as any other species in this year's survey. The 2012 results for all 21 of the Big Butterfly Count target butterfly and moth species are shown below:


Grand total


Meadow Brown









Small White



Large White



Six-spot Burnet



Marbled White



Green-veined White



Large Skipper



Small Tortoiseshell



Red Admiral






Speckled Wood



Common Blue



Small Copper






Holly Blue



Painted Lady









Silver Y


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

Bucking the trend

The biggest winners were among the 'browns'. Meadow Brown counts were up by 186% on 2011 and the Ringlet and Marbled White also did very well. Ringlet numbers increased by 354%, seeing the species climb from 11th position in 2011 to 3rd this year, while Marbled White counts increased by a staggering 503%, rising from 17th position last year to 7th. Each of these species is single-brooded and may have benefited from a change to somewhat better weather during their flight periods in the latter half of the summer. They are also all species whose caterpillars feed on long grasses and so may also have benefited from the lush growth of their foodplants in this damp year.

The Six-spot Burnet moth did well for the second year in succession, reaching 6th place overall. Its numbers were up by 55%. It was a mixed summer for migrant species, with Painted Lady butterflies reported down on 2011 but an increase in counts of the Silver Y moth.

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 2013.

What you said about Big Butterfly Count 2012

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:

"I have been concerned about our wonderful butterflies and moths, and infact all our insects for many years now, and I am pleased that I can help you with this survey." Ms B., Nottinghamshire

"The meadow was alive with Meadow Browns, as I walked through the grass, dozens of them were flying away" Mr S., Essex

"Fantastic project - huge concerns like yourselves over the effect of our summer on butterflies" Ms W., Somerset

"I was beginning to think I wouldn't see any at all this year!!" Mrs W., Torfaen

"My little sister counted hundreds of butterflies and ran out of time before she could count them all! She really enjoyed counting the different types and learning what they were all called" Ms L., East Sussex

"This is the worst I can remember in the 25 years we have been here" Mr S., South Lanarkshire

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 regular 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 2012's Big Butterfly Count and explore the data by species, date period or habitat type.

Thank you once again for your help in making the Big Butterfly Count the biggest butterfly event of its kind in the world and enabling us to assess how butterflies and moths have fared during this difficult summer. Make sure you and your friends and family take part in Big Butterfly Count 2013.

See results for your country

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