BLOG: The Big Butterfly Count 2019

5 August 2019

Who doesn't still get excited when they see a stunning butterfly fluttering around their garden or out on a walk? However, the Butterfly Conservation organisation's State of the UK butterflies report in 2015 found that 70% of UK species were in decline in occurrence, and 57% have declined in abundance.

Join us at City of Trees as we lend our support to The Big Butterfly Count, which is a campaign that takes place from 19 July to 11 August 2019.

Our trees and woods are vital habitats for butterflies (as well as other insects) so by planting more trees and conserving our existing trees, we are also helping provide essential habitat for various species of woodland butterflies.

The 2015 report found that in England between 1990 and 2014, woodland butterflies saw a 55% decline. The report also states that woodland birds have also decreased in abundance, and it is believed that this is due to the deterioration of their habitat.

Butterflies are one of the most studied insects, which gives us vital insights into changes in the eco-system and biodiversity in the UK.

Overall, butterflies are just one more reason why we want to acheive our mission of planting 3million trees - one for every person in Greater Manchester, as well protect and preserve our existing woodlands.


What is the Big Butterfly Count?

The campaign was launched in 2010 and is supported by TV presenter Nick Baker. In 2018, more than 100,00 people took part and submitted 97,133 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from right across the UK.

You can also look at the results via an interactive map as they are recorded, and can even look at the results from Greater Manchester.


What do I need to do?

Download the butterfly chart on the website or the smart phone app - iPhone app or Android app -  to help you identify and record the butterflies you see.

Find somewhere to sit and watch butterflies for 15 minutes. This could be your garden, or a local park or woods or your school. It's better to choose a bright sunny day (although there are butterflies that prefer clouded days). The summer months were chosen for this campaign because most butterflies are at the adult stage of their lifecycle and are more likely to be seen.

There is an online chart to fill out your findings, and you can do this as many times as you like for different locations and different dates in the same location.


Which woodland butterflies can I look out for?


There were 7,164 Brimstone butterflies counted in 2018, which was 20% fewer than the year before. The Brimstone has yellow-green angular wings with strong veining that looks very much like green leaves. The caterpillars munch on Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn. This beauty is seen around woodlands, grassland, as well as roadside verges and hedgerows.



The Comma has truly beautiful scalloped-edge wings, in a delicate orange-brown colour with black spots. When its wings are folded up, the underside looks remarkably like a leaf. The stunning insect is found in open woodland and woodland edges. With a count of 22,881 in the last butterfly count, this represents a decline of -40%. However, Butterfly Conservation also states that the Comma saw a huge decline in the twentieth century but has been making a remarkable come-back.

Picture credit: Butterfly Conservation. CopyrightIain Leach (003).jpg



The Gatekeeper was the third most abundant butterfly counted in 2018, with 72,877. However, this butterfly saw a decrease of 54% from the previous year. This is the lowest figures that had been seen since the survey was launched, and this beautiful butterfly has undergone a long-term decline in the UK. The Gatekeeper is also known as the Hedge Brown because it's usually seen around clumps of flowers at a gateway and field edges, woodland edges and hedges. It's favourite sources of nectar are Wild Marjoram, Common Fleabane, ragworts and brambles. This butterfly has a dark orange body with brown edging, and a brown spot on the edge of each wing.

Picture credit: From Butterfly Conservation. Copyright Andrew Cooper.


The Peacock

This bright butterfly didn't see a huge difference from 2017 figures with a 9% increase and 54,287 sightings in 2018. This beauty is easy to spot in a garden, with its red wings and blue peacock-feather eyes. Its underwings and are very dark and look like leaves. Although it's found in gardens taking nectar from buddleia bushes, its preferred habitat is woodland clearings and edges.

Picture credit: Peacock. From Butterfly Conservation.



With a decline of 62% from 2018 to 2017, there were 11,902 sightings of the Ringlet in the last count. The velvety black butterfly has a white fringe on its wings, and small circles on the underwings. Its favourite nectar sources are brambles and wild privet.

Picture credit: From Butterfly Conservation. Copyright Andrew Cooper.


Speckled Wood

There were 35,294 Speckled Wood butterflies counted last year, which represented a 12% from the previous year. The brown butterfly has yellow patches and feeds from honeydew from the treetops, not from flowers. It likes partially-shaded woodland, and despite a decline in the 1920s, has been spreading over the past two decades in the north of England and Scotland.

Picture credit: Butterfly Conservation. Copyright Bob Eade.


For more information you can visit: Don't forget to tag us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using @cityoftreesmcr with any results from your butterfly count.