Biodiversity – we know it’s important and we feel we are doing our bit to help maintain it, but it’s nice to get the chance to do a bit more, isn’t it? Especially when our contribution will actually take less than 30 minutes.
Yes, in under 30 minutes you can take part in a Citizen Science survey to help assess the health of our environment. We love Citizen Science projects and are honestly tempted to don a white coat and safety specs just so everyone knows we are carrying out important scientific work.
We’ll tell you what else we love about this vital research we are about to undertake. It will be really enjoyable and we can probably persuade the children to join in.
We are taking part in the Big Butterfly Count 2023, which runs between Friday 14th July and Sunday 6th August. The data we add will contribute to conservation science and research. It will help the organising charity, Butterfly Conservation, to assess how much help nature needs and to identify important trends, so they can plan how to protect butterflies from extinction. Extinction! Imagine a world without these lovely, fragile creatures.
It's not out of the question. The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2022 report showed that 80% of butterflies and moths have declined in abundance or distribution, or both, in the UK since the 1970s.
The UK has 59 species of butterflies. Fifty-seven are permanent residents and they are joined by regular migrants, the Painted Lady and the Clouded Yellow.
All butterflies are, undoubtedly beautiful beings but they are also a vital part of our ecosystem as both pollinators and components of the food chain.
We should be alarmed at their decline because it is an early warning for other wildlife losses. They are key biodiversity indicators for scientists (and remember, we are now citizen scientists) as they react very quickly to changes in their environment. So if their numbers are falling, nature is in trouble. Tracking the number of butterflies is crucial, not just for their survival, but for the survival of the wider environment.
Right, having donned our metaphorical lab coats, what do we need to do?
1. Go to https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org and download the butterfly ID chart or free app so you can identify and record the butterflies you spot
2. Choose a place to spot butterflies and moths and watch for 15 minutes
3. Add your counts on the website or via the app
It is best to do your count on a bright, sunny day, but you can do it absolutely anywhere – your garden, a park, a field, a forest …… and, naturally, it is important to let the organisation know if you don’t see any at all. An area with no butterflies may well mean a wider problem.
Over 64,000 citizen scientists took part in the Big Butterfly Count in 2022, submitting 96,257 counts of butterflies and day-time flying moths across the UK.
Full details of how you can take part this year are on the website. You’ll be in good company – Sir David Attenborough, Chris Packham, Joanna Lumley and Alan Titchmarsh have all given their support to the project.