The UK has recorded its lowest number of butterflies in an annual insect survey, prompting conservationists to warn that nature is in crisis.
Butterfly Conservation, which counted butterflies and moths between July 16 and August 8, said the results, released Thursday, marked the lowest numbers since the Big Butterfly Count began 12 years ago and called for urgent action. .
It is the latest warning sign for butterflies, which, in addition to being a vital part of the food chain, are considered important indicators of the health of the environment, after decades of decline. Since 1976, 76% of butterflies have declined in abundance or distribution.
Julie Williams, executive director of the charity, said: “The facts are clear. Nature is in crisis and we need urgent action, not only to avoid further loss of species, but to rebuild biodiversity ”.
Of the 150,000 counts recorded in this year’s snapshot, the highest number sent to date, volunteers counted an average of nine butterflies or moths each count, compared to an average of 11 last year and 16 in 2019.
Overall, 1,238,405 butterflies and moths were counted, a 14% reduction from last year. The survey is conducted by volunteers who count the number and type of butterflies or moths they see in 15 minutes.
Species with significantly reduced counts include the small shell, which fell 32% and is in long-term decline in the UK, and the peacock butterfly, which was 63% lower than last year and had its Lowest count since 2012. Other than The marked declines they saw last year were comma (-32%), speckled wood (-41%) and common blue (-59%).
There were more curls and speckled whites in this year’s count, which increased by 81% and 213% year-on-year, respectively. But, the charity warned, the increases could simply reflect lower counts last year.
Zoë Randle, Senior Poll Officer at Butterfly Conservation, said an extremely wet May, which brought the UK highest fourth The amount of rain recorded during the month was a significant factor for the number of butterflies, which made it difficult for them to reproduce and feed.
“Butterflies don’t like rain at all, they are cold-blooded insects. Indeed, they work with solar energy ”, he said.
This was especially bad for species that produce two offspring a year, most of which had their worst year in the study’s history. “That first brood would have been really crushed by that wet May. Therefore, breeding success would have been limited, leading to fewer offspring available to create the second generation, ”Randle said, adding that it would have a knock-on effect on next year’s count.
And since extreme weather events are expected to increase as a result of climate collapse, it is feared that the long-term impact on butterflies and moths could be devastating.
Butterfly Conservation is committed to halving the number of endangered species in the UK, doubling its impact on landscape restoration and encouraging people to create new wild wilderness.
Failure to take steps to protect them, Randle said, would result in “continued degradation of the environment and the natural world.”
In addition to the unusual weather patterns, Brian Eversham, entomologist and CEO of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, said the insects faced numerous pressures, including loss of habitat, polluted waterways and dangerous use of pesticides.
But, he added: “While these findings are disturbing, we should not underestimate nature’s ability to bounce back if given the opportunity. We can all help by creating more habitats for wildlife. “
Top 10 species counted in the UK in the Big Butterfly Count 2021
1. Small white (252,151 counted; -5% in 2020)
2. Large white (229,218; -16%)
3. Meadow Brown (197,060; + 33%)
4. Guardian (133,726; -30%)
5. Red Admiral (75,394; -10%)
6. Ringlet (63,311; + 81%)
7. Peacock (61,668; -63%)
8. Small turtle (38,543; -32%)
9. Marbled white (28,704; + 213%)
10. White streaked with green (27,784; -9%)
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism