Sunday, 31 July 2016

Britons urged to help chart spread of thriving butterfly species

Campaign asks wildlife enthusiasts to visit local woodland to record number of speckled woods and other butterflies

Monday 1 August 201606.01 BST

Wildlife lovers are being asked to spend 15 minutes in a wood this week to chart the spread of the speckled wood (Pararge aegeria), Britain’s most successful butterfly.

The speckled wood is one of a handful of species that appear to be benefitting from climate change, recently colonising East Anglia, the Midlands and much of northern England, increasing in abundance by 84% over the past 40 years. The southern population has expanded northwards at an average of four miles a year since the 1970s.

The butterfly has also ventured into the Irish Sea to reach the Isle of Man and spread across Scotland, where in the 1970s it was restricted to the mild west coast and the Moray firth. It may even be about to establish itself on the Outer Hebrides.

As part of this year’s Big Butterfly Count, Butterfly Conservation and the Tree Charter - a campaign to help protect the UK’s woodlands and wildlife - are asking the public to visit a local wood and record the speckled woods and other butterflies they see.

Results from the Big Butterfly Count, the world’s biggest annual insect count, will help scientists to understand why the speckled wood has thrived when three-quarters of Britain’s 59 native butterfly species are in decline.

“It’s a species that’s doing well but it’s also doing interesting things,” said Richard Fox of Butterfly Conservation. “Sightings in northern England, southern Scotland, Scottish islands and the far north are particularly important – you might discover a new area in which the speckled wood has never been found before. But we welcome sightings from everywhere so we can measure how well the speckled wood is doing nationally.”

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