Thursday, 12 July 2018

Reality Check: Are butterflies getting rarer?

By Reality Check teamBBC News
30 June 2018

It's been claimed that butterfly populations in the UK are falling rapidly. Do the figures back this up?

Their names are as varied and colourful as their wings.

The Duke of Burgundy, the Lulworth skipper, the chalk hill blue, the painted lady and the small pearl-bordered fritillary are among the 59 species of butterfly regularly found in the UK.

But, adored as they are, it's often claimed that the UK's butterflies are in trouble. Climate change, habitat destruction and hunting/collecting have all been blamed.

The naturalist Chris Packham recently tweeted his concern.

“I’ve been in my garden in Hampshire for the last couple of days . Sunny , plenty of wildflowers . Not a single butterfly . Not one . Nothing . And in the woods a handful of Speckled Woods . I think we are at a point of absolute crisis in our countryside .”

The statistics support his observation.
Government figures suggest that, since 1976, "habitat specialist" butterflies - the ones that tend not to fly far from their favoured landscapes, such as heathland or chalkland - have declined by 77%.

"Wider countryside" species - the ones that are better able to move around and adapt to different environments - have declined by 46% over the same period.

"It's worrying," says Tom Brereton, head of monitoring for the charity Butterfly Conservation. "When I started doing this, the concern was mainly about habitat specialists, but now all types seem to be struggling. We don't fully understand why that's happening."

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