Butterfly numbers set for autumn rise despite wet summer, says charity

It was a difficult summer for British butterflies, but the pleasant spring and a warm September could see many species thrive in the autumn months

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Butterfly numbers suffered at the hands of a cold and wet August, yet the balmy weather experienced during the spring months allowed many species to emerge early. Consequently, British butterfly numbers may experience a rise during the autumn months, according to wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation.

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The favourable spring and early summer conditions enabled a host of butterfly species to breed earlier than normal. As a result, species such as comma, red admiral and speckled wood were able to fit in an extra generation, set to emerge in early autumn.

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Comma butterfly ©Christopher Mills, Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation believes that Britain’s gardens are integral to the survival of many species, such as the small tortoiseshell and peacock, which have to gain substantial fat reserves to survive hibernation over winter.

“Gardens become increasingly important for butterflies at this time of year,” reports Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording Richard Fox.

“Nectar, the flight fuel for most of our butterflies, is in short supply in the countryside as we move into autumn, yet many of our garden flowerbeds and borders are still full of colour.

“For some butterflies it is a matter of life and death; species such as the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma, which hibernate as adult butterflies, have to feed up and lay down substantial fat reserves in their bodies in order to survive the winter. If they can’t find enough nectar they simply won’t make it through to breed next spring.

“Others, such as the painted lady and red admiral will be taking on fuel reserves that they need to migrate south to warmer climes around the Mediterranean.”

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Small white butterfly UK ©Ivan Lynas, Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation wants gardeners to report their butterfly sightings throughout autumn and winter as part of the Garden Butterfly Survey, a study that aims to assess the changing fortunes of butterflies in gardens and, ultimately, to understand how important gardens are for our butterfly populations and what gardeners can do to help.

Find out more about Butterfly Conservation and the the Garden Butterfly Survey.

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Main Image ©Christopher Mills, Butterfly Conservation