Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation has confirmed 2019 as a ‘Painted Lady Year’ after nearly half a million were recorded in just three weeks as part of this summer’s The Big Butterfly Count.
The high number of Painted Lady butterflies occur as a natural phenomenon about once in every decade, when migratory butterflies arrive in the UK. It is too early to tell how 2019 compares to the last ‘Painted Lady Year’ in 2009, although this year saw an increase of 2498% on the 2018 survey.
Other common species also experienced a bumper summer, helped by the fine weather, including The Peacock, which had its best summer since 2014, The Marbled White with a 264% increase and the colourful red and black Six-spot Burnet moth at 64%.
Populations of Red Admiral and Gatekeeper were up 138% and 95% respectively compared to the same period last year – with The Small Tortoiseshell experiencing its best result since 2014, with around 70,000 spotted this summer. However, scientists remain concerned about the long-term future of The Small Tortoiseshell as this once common and widespread butterfly has declined by 78% since the 1970s.
Although the warm weather helped most UK butterflies this summer, the common white species and blue butterflies all suffered slumps. The Large White, Small White and Green-veined White saw their numbers drop by 42% compared to last year, with the Common Blue down 59% compared to 2018, and sightings of the Holly Blue also down 54%.
It is thought that although the three white species and two blue butterflies all experienced a bumper Big Butterfly Count in 2018, this year’s drop in sightings could be the result of an increase in predators such as parasitic wasps.
Scientists will use their findings from The Big Butterfly Count 2019 to see how the UK’s common species are faring and where to target future conservation work. For further informaiton visit www.bigbutterflycount.org.