Butterfly population is flying high

Daily Echo: A Small Tortoiseshell in Barley. A Small Tortoiseshell in Barley.

HAMPSHIRE is all a-flutter thanks to the best summer in seven years for butterflies.

After suffering a crash in numbers during 2012, figures revealed today show that farmland butterflies bounced back in 2013 by almost 200 per cent.

Species that were seen to be thriving in Hampshire included the Large White, the Small Tortoiseshell, the Common Blue and the Small Copper – all of which saw a dramatic rise in numbers.

The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS), which assesses the fortunes of common and widespread species, discovered that many farmland butterflies flourished as a result of long periods of warm, sunny weather last summer.

The annual survey, running since 2009, counts butterflies in more than 850 randomly selected 1km squares across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to assess the health of butterfly populations across the wider countryside rather than at specially-managed hotspots such as nature reserves.

WCBS co-ordinator Dr Zoë Randle, from Butterfly Conservation, said: “Farmland butterflies really thrived last year primarily due to the fantastic summer weather which provided ideal conditions with several recording their best ever WCBS results.”

Overall, the majority of farmland species recovered in 2013 after suffering one of the worst years on record for butterflies in 2012.

In 2013, 30 squares were covered in the county and recorders saw 6,009 butterflies of 33 different species, compared to a total of 2,029 in 2012.

On average recorders saw 100 butterflies of six species, compared to just 38 of four species in 2012 – an increase of 163 per cent in just 12 months.

The most widespread butterfly in 2013 was the Large White, which was seen in all of the 30 squares under observation.

The Small White was the most abundant butterfly in Hampshire, accounting for 18 per cent of all the butterflies seen.

Having an excellent year last year was the Small Tortoiseshell, which was seen to be in 70 per cent of the squares, compared to just seven per cent in 2012.

The Common Blue and Small Copper also did well, being seen in more squares and in higher numbers.

However, it wasn’t good news for every species, with the Holly Blue halving its occupation of squares compared to the previous year.

Kate Risely, from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), added: “It is great news that populations of widespread butterfly species increased in 2013.

“These results demonstrate the value of large-scale volunteer surveys for monitoring country-wide trends in butterfly numbers.

“Recording butterflies and birds at the same sites gives us a unique insight into the health of our countryside.”

The WCBS is run by Butterfly Conservation, the BTO and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology as part of the United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring scheme.

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