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Big Butterfly Count launches ahead of Painted Lady ‘summer’

UK wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is urging us all to take part in The Big Butterfly Count to help asses the health of our environment.

Launching today and celebrating its 10th year, the world’s largest butterfly survey attracted more than 100,000 people in 2018 who counted over one million butterflies. Participants are encouraged to spot and record 17 species of common butterfly, including the Painted Lady, and two day-flying moths in the UK during three weeks of high summer.

Butterfly Conservation Vice-president and wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham is particularly keen for citizen scientists to take part and help reveal if the UK is experiencing a once in a decade butterfly phenomenon.

Unusually high numbers of Painted Lady butterflies have been reported across Europe over the spring and early summer with large numbers now spotted crossing over into the UK where its caterpillars will feed on thistles.

Once every 10 years the UK experiences a Painted Lady ‘summer’ when millions of the butterflies arrive in huge numbers. The last mass immigration took place in 2009 when around 11 million Painted Ladies descended widely across the UK.

Chris said: “The Painted Lady migration is one of the wonders of the natural world. Travelling up to 1km in the sky and at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, these seemingly fragile creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year.

“This butterfly undertakes an extraordinary 7,500-mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle every year – almost double the length of the famous migrations of the Monarch butterfly in North America.

“Signs across Europe are looking very promising, meaning that 2019 could be a very good year for the Painted Lady with high numbers already being recorded across parts of the UK.

“The butterfly can turn up anywhere so please take part in the Big Butterfly Count and look out for them – you could be witnessing a once in a decade butterfly phenomenon.”

The Big Butterfly Count runs from the 19th of July until the 11th of August. Submit your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org  or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.

Main image: Painted Lady – Mark Searle, Butterfly Conservation

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