Best-known Scots butterflies struggling after two wet summers

Conservationists fear populations of butterflies such as the peacock have been hit by this summers unseasonably wet weather. Picture: Contributed

Conservationists fear populations of butterflies such as the peacock have been hit by this summers unseasonably wet weather. Picture: Contributed

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Fears have been raised for the survival of Scotland’s best-known and most colourful butterflies after two sodden summers in a row.

Conservationists are concerned that the recent unseasonably wet weather is having a major impact on some of the nation’s most common species, which usually emerge in July and August.

Peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma butterflies feed on nectar from many of the most popular garden plants and are widespread across the UK.

They hibernate over winter as adults before emerging to lay their eggs on nettles and thistles. However, they need dry conditions to fly.

The number of reported sightings for 2016 are significantly down on usual, according to experts at the wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation Scotland.

Now they are warning there may be no next generation of these much-loved insects.

The recent poor weather has come on top of a washout in 2015, which hit populations of high-summer species.

Research shows small tortoiseshells and peacocks have increased in both their numbers and in the places where they are found across the UK over the past decade.

But last year’s Big Butterfly Count revealed 2015’s rainy weather had a massive impact.

Peacock numbers plummeted by 97 per cent from the previous year, while there was a 37 per cent drop in overall sightings of all species. A similar trend is predicted for 2016.

Mid-­August is typically peak time to see peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma, but so far very few have been spotted.

The charity is now asking members of the public to look in gardens and parks and record any sightings to help build a picture of how they are faring.

Project officer Anthony McCluskey said: “We have received very few records of these species despite the fact that urban areas are real havens for them.

“We are hoping that the wet weather has simply delayed their appearance, which are normally seen in much greater numbers in July and August.”

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