Thursday, 21 July 2016

2016 could be worst year on record for British butterflies, experts warn

Public asked to take part in annual count to assess the impact of a sunless summer, cool spring and mild winter on butterfly numbers

Friday 15 July 201606.01 BST

A deadly combination of a sunless summer, cool spring and mild winter may make 2016 the worst year for butterflies since records began, experts warn.

Sir David Attenborough is urging the public to take part in the Big Butterfly Count so that scientists can discover just how disastrous the unsettled weather is proving for Britain’s 59 butterfly species.

The count, the largest insect survey in the world, begins today with people asked to spend 15 minutes recording which butterflies they see in a park, garden or countryside.

Richard Fox, of Butterfly Conservation, which runs the survey, said: “It’s not looking good at all but we will only know how bad a year it’s been if lots of people take part. Even if you see only one butterfly – or none – please submit these sightings because that’s what we need to tell how good or bad this year will turn out to be for our butterflies.”

Butterflies have been scientifically monitored since 1976 and the worst year since records began was the cold summer of 2012, which began with a mild spring. This year’s weather, said Fox, had been completely different: a cold, late spring followed by a warm but extremely wet and sunless summer.

Many common species, particularly the small and large whites, the common blue and the small copper appear to be extremely scarce this year.

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