If you’re lucky enough to be on holiday at the moment, you might well be enjoying a little relaxation time in your garden, or a local park or nature reserve, enjoying the fresh air and flowers and being aware of the local fauna as well, including insects.
We all know how important bees are to pollinate crops and flowers, but did you know butterflies also fulfil this role? They’re not as efficient at it as bees – to begin with, their long, thin legs mean they can’t collect as much pollen as our stripy friends. When butterflies collect pollen, it’s almost by accident, although there are a couple of moths who are pretty good at it. Butterflies can, however, fly much further and cover larger areas than bees, and they especially like open flowers like heather and honeysuckle. Unlike bees, butterflies can also recognise the colour red. (Come to think of it, we were sitting by the geraniums when we spotted most of our butterflies for this year’s Big Butterfly Count.)
If you’d like a fun, free activity to carry out in the garden, park or nature reserve this year, then the Big Butterfly Count is a great option and all the family can join in. All you need to do is find a comfy spot in a garden (yours or someone else’s, with permission, obviously!), or a park, or a nature reserve, or even just your local street, and observe for 15 minutes, making a count of the different butterflies and/or moths you see.
There are free downloadable charts, or for those who prefer their learning with a good dollop of technology on the side, you can also download apps from the website. Once your fifteen minutes are up, you can submit your results to the website. There’s an interactive map online so you can see what’s happening in your local area, or further afield.
In 2018 the clear winners, in terms of numbers, were the whites – small whites, large whites, and green-veined whites. Each year the survey gives an overview of what’s happening with butterflies and moths – which species are declining, which are doing well, and whether they are relocating, as a species, north, south, or east, or west.
In 2019, the Big Butterfly Count is taking place until the 11 August – over 100,000 people took part in 2018, recording over 1 million sightings of our fluttery friends. It’s a great mindful activity – just watching nature go by, yet doing something useful at the same time. And on that note, it's back to watching hopefully for a Red Admiral, or a Peacock, or a Gatekeeper...or even our favourite whites.