Butterfly numbers

Last year’s record breaking summer was an excellent year for butterflies, with more than half of Britain’s species increasing their numbers.

The drought of 2018 had led to fears of a crash in butterfly populations, particularly among the species whose caterpillars feed on the grasses that did so badly that year. But the annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme revealed grass-feeding species thrived in 2019, including the ringlet and the meadow brown, both of which were seen in some numbers in the park. Last summer’s combination of warmth, sunshine and rain ensured plenty of lush growth for their caterpillars and therefore plenty of adult butterflies.

1 Ringlet. 2 Meadow brown.

The marbled white, another species identified in the park last year, enjoyed its best year since scientific monitoring began in 1976. It was also a notable year for the painted lady, a migratory butterfly from Africa via continental Europe that arrived in Britain in greater numbers than in any summer since 1996. The painted lady was seen and photographed in the park for the first time last year, a welcome addition to our species lists.

3 Marbled white. 4 Painted lady.

It was a record year for spring species such as orange-tip and brimstone as well as species that have had some poor years recently, such as the peacock and small tortoiseshell. A spokesperson for Butterfly Conservation said the encouraging results for 2019 provide some evidence that the overall rate of decline of butterflies is slowing and for some species is being reversed.

5 Peacock. 6 Brimstone

Already, in the park this year, there have been multiple sightings of peacocks and brimstones, species that hibernate as adults and emerge early in the spring. Hopefully they are the heralds of another good year for our lepidoptera.

Header picture: small tortoiseshell by DKG

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