16 July 2018
The Big Butterfly Count, organised by Butterfly Conservation, will take place 20 July – 12 August 2018 and we’re showcasing the importance of trees and woods for our flying friends.
The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey aimed at helping assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world's biggest survey of butterflies. Over 60,000 people took part in 2017, submitting 62,500 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK.
Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses.
That’s why counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature.
The count will also assist Butterfly Conservation in identifying trends in species that will help plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.
Different woodland types appeal to different butterflies, for example some prefer open habitats where as some are attracted to shaded closed canopy woodland.
A huge number of species feed on the canopy of mature trees, whilst others require their foodplants to be growing in shaded conditions or feast on mosses or lichens which can only flourish in shade.
And we mustn’t forget about moths! Closed canopy woodland is one of the most significant habitats for many moths and both moth abundance and species richness may be highest in sheltered woodland.
Peacock butterfly pictured above
Only a few butterflies in the UK are associated with closed canopy or shaded woodland and include the canopy feeding White-letter Hairstreak and Purple Hairstreak.
In addition, the White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary breed on foodplants growing in shaded conditions.
Bramble patches are good spots for passing white admirals who are partial to the blossoms, and are a favourite for the black and brown hairstreaks.
The Purple Emperor is perhaps the most stunning of the woodland butterflies. The iridescent blue males patrol high in the canopy of mature trees like oaks. Rarely seen but difficult to mistake, with their strong gliding flight, they are a true jewel!
Sadly almost all of the woodland specialist butterflies are in decline, as are two-thirds of all butterfly species, which is why it’s ever-increasingly important to not only protect and preserve our woodlands – but create more of them.