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Join the big butterfly count and save the planet

big butterfly count - image of butterfly on flower

What’s the Idea?

Help save the planet by taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count, a fun survey the whole family can get involved in.

What’s the story

The Big Butterfly Count takes place each year across the UK. This survey counts the number of butterflies seen in one day, with scientists using the results to study how healthy the planet is.

Now entering its tenth year, the survey will take place this year from July 17th to August 9th.

People of all ages take part. In 2019 there were over 110,000 participants, while the number of butterflies counted was almost 560,000. That’s a lot of butterflies!

This survey is both fun and educational and perfect to do during a walk or while you are just sitting outside.

My family and I love to get involved. Everyone from my niece and nephews to my Grampa join in! We usually make a day of it and have a picnic. Weather dependent of course!

People should do this because…?

Over the past 150 years, we know of four species of butterfly that have become extinct. Today it is estimated that 75% of butterflies in Britain are declining in numbers.

The Big Butterfly Count helps keeps track of their population.

Why do we need to do this? Butterflies are an important part of the ecosystem, and because their population size is an indicator on if the environment is in good health.

Butterflies are also a source of food for several species, including birds and hedgehogs. And it is these invertebrates, among others, that help control pests.

And just like bees, butterflies are important pollinators for flowers.

Fun Fact: In ancient folklore, butterflies were thought to be witches. They would turn into flying creatures to steal butter! Hence the name.  

How do you do it?

Taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is simple.

All you need to do is count the number of butterflies you see within 15 minutes. If it’s a warm bright day all the better. If you are from Scotland, like me… good luck!

You can complete the survey anywhere outside. This includes parks, gardens, riverbeds, etc. I personally try to find somewhere with a lot of flowers.

Fun Fact: Butterflies have a truly short life span. They live on average 2 weeks. Although the Painted Lady species can live to the ripe old age of 1 year.

There are some guidelines to follow when taking part in the Big Butterfly Count.

  • Standing still to count: If you see 4 of the same species of butterfly together, count it as 4. If you count 4 of the same separately, count this as 1. This helps prevent counting the same butterfly more than once.
  • Walking and counting: Only count 1 of each species if you are not standing at the same spot.
  • This should be done on any day between July 17th to August 9th. These dates are when a higher percentage of butterflies are at the adult stage of their life.
  • The survey can be done more than once in the same spot, on a different date though. You can also take more than one survey in different areas.

Fun Fact: Butterflies taste with their feet!

Stuff you may need

The only thing you need is a pencil and some paper. Or better yet, an identification chart. These are available to download for free on the official Big Butterfly Count website here. Each part of the UK has their own chart.

To report your count, use the official website or you can download the Big Butterfly Count app.

Android: Download  APP

IOS: Download APP

Phone calls, texts, emails, and letters are not accepted to report your results. Everything must be done electronically through the app or the website.

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