Big Butterfly Count 2022: How do I take part in Scotland, what were last year's results and what butterflies am I looking for?

With two-fifths of British butterflies under threat of extinction the colourful insects need our help more than ever.

Launched in 2010, the Big Butterfly Count has become the world’s biggest survery of its type – with over 107,000 citizen scientists taking part in 2021, submitting 152,039 counts of butterflies and day-flying moths from across the UK.

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation organise the science event, which is backed by the likes of David Attenborough (who is president of the charity), naturalists Chris Packham and Nick Baker (who are vice presidents), actress Joanna Lumley and television presenter Alan Titchmarsh.

This year’s event starts today (Friday, July 15) and organisers are hoping that even more people take just 15 minutes out of their day to report on the health of the butterly population in their area.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why count butterflies?

Butterflies are not just beautiful creatures – they are also vital parts of the ecosystem as both pollinators of flowers and as part of the food chain for numerous creatures.

But numbers of butterflies and moths in the UK have decreased significantly since the 1970s and this is seen as an early warning sign by scientists, as they react very quickly to changes in their environment.

The Small Tortoiseshell is one of 17 insects Scots are being asked to look out for as part of the Big Butterfly Count.

Tracking numbers of butterflies is crucial in the fight to conserve our natural world, and counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature.

There aren’t enough scientists to do the job, so recruiting thousands of volunteers is the only way to get the valuable data.

When does the Big Butterfly Count take place?

The Big Butterfly Count starts on Friday, July 15, and runs until Friday, August 7.

How do I take part?

Simply count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright weather (preferably sunny – although that can be tricky in Scotland).

You can choose pretty much any location where butterflies are likely to be – from parks, school grounds and gardens, to fields and forests.

If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) - this is so that you don't count the same butterfly more than once.

If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

There is a list of target butterfly and day-flying moth species the organisers want you to count, which can be downloaded from the website here, or from the mobile phone app, along with a handy identification guide.

Even if you don't see any butterflies you should register this, as it is very important to know if there are areas where butterflies are not being seen as it may indicate a wider problem.

You can do as many counts as you want to, including at the same place on different day or several different places on the same day.

All counts can be recorded on the website or on the app. Counts cannot be accepted by email or letter.

What are the target species for Scotland?

The target species that volunteers are being asked to count vary depending on the geographical location.

In Scotland, the species to look out for are as follows: Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Scotch Argus, Speckled Wood, Comma, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Silver Y (moth), and Six-spot Burnet (moth).

What were last year’s results?

The data collected in 2021 showed that the overall number of butterflies recorded per count was at the lowest number it has been since the survey began 12 years earlier – in spite of more people taking part than ever before.

The results were as follows, starting with the most recorded butterfly.

Small White: 252,151

Large White: 229,218

Meadow Brown: 197,060

Gatekeeper: 133,726

Red Admiral: 75,394

Ringlet: 63,311

Peacock: 61,668

Small Tortoiseshell: 38,543

Marbled White: 28,704

Green-veined White: 27,784

Small Copper: 22,897

Comma: 21,320

Speckled Wood: 18,086

Six-spot Burnet moth: 15,964

Common Blue: 14,376

Painted Lady: 12,180

Holly Blue: 10,018

Brimstone: 7,984

Silver Y moth: 3,661

Scotch Argus: 2,326

Jersey Tiger moth: 2,034

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