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big butterfly count

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big butterfly count 2019 results: country by country

The 10th year of big butterfly count was a great success, setting new records for the number of counts submitted (which exceeded 100,000 for the first time in the project's history), the number of people taking part (113,502) and the number of butterflies and moths counted (1,595,579). Participation increased not only in the UK as a whole, but in each of the participating countries. Scotland showed the greatest increase with more than twice as many people taking part compared with big butterfly count 2018 and over 11,000 counts submitted. The number of participants was up by a third in Northern Ireland, 14% in Wales and 3% in England. Involvement on the Isle of Man (up 77% on 2018) and in the Channel Islands (up 53%) also continued to grow.

Patterns of abundance

The Top 10 most abundant species in each UK country in 2019 were as follows:

England

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Wales

1. Painted Lady

1. Painted Lady

1. Painted Lady

1. Painted Lady

2. Peacock

2. Small Tortoiseshell

2. Small Tortoiseshell

2. Peacock

3. Small White

3. Peacock

3. Peacock

3. Gatekeeper

4. Gatekeeper

4. Meadow Brown

4. Small White

4. Meadow Brown

5. Large White

5. Small White

5. Red Admiral

5. Small White

6. Meadow Brown

6. Ringlet

6. Large White

6. Red Admiral

7. Red Admiral

7. Red Admiral

7. Green-veined White

7. Large White

8. Small Tortoiseshell

8. Speckled Wood

8. Meadow Brown

8. Small Tortoiseshell

9. Comma

9. Large White

9. Ringlet

9. Speckled Wood

10. Speckled Wood

10. Green-veined White

10. Speckled Wood

10. Common Blue

England

82% of counts were undertaken in England so the results are very similar to those for big butterfly count as a whole. Painted Lady topped the chart for the first time in the 10 years of big butterfly count and 225,962 were counted during the three-week period - almost 20 times the total abundance recorded in England in the same period in 2018. Although Painted Ladies were recorded right across England, the largest counts were in the north. There were spectacular clouds of Painted Ladies on the coast of north-east England as butterflies arrived on our shores in early August, but there were high counts in the north-west too.

Small White and Large White, which came first and second respectively in England in 2018, both declined by more than one third, as did Green-veined White. The Common Blue and Holly Blue, which also did very well in 2018, decreased substantially too, with counts down by more than a half.

In contrast, many species that fared badly in 2018 bounced back in big butterfly count 2019. These included the Red Admiral (up 165% on 2018), Gatekeeper (up 108%) and Small Tortoiseshell (up 158%). The latter also seemed to be much more numerous in more northern parts of England, and relatively scarce in the south and in East Anglia.

Northern Ireland

The Painted Lady dominated the results in Northern Ireland, taking the top spot and averaging over nine individuals per count through the three-week recording period (which compares to less than three per count in England). In total, Painted Ladies made up more than half of all the butterflies and moths counted in the Province during big butterfly count 2019. Painted Lady was seven times more abundant than the next most common species. Perhaps spurred on by the 'Painted Lady Year', participation increased substantially, with 33% more people taking part in 2019 compared with the previous year, and the highest ever number of counts submitted.

The common white butterflies that had been so plentiful in the summer of 2018, taking three of the top four spots in Northern Ireland, all decreased dramatically, with Small White down 63% (in 5th place in 2019), Large White down 70% (in 9th position) and Green-veined White down a massive 84% and finishing 10th, having been number one in 2018. Peacock numbers remained quite high, although not as good in 2018, while the Small Tortoiseshell enjoyed its best big butterfly count since 2014 and finished in second place.

Scotland

The Painted Lady had a phenomenal summer in Scotland, with some huge counts, particularly from the Firth of Forth and other parts of the east coast during late July and early August. These butterflies, probably arriving from Scandinavia, then dispersed more widely through the Central Belt and on to the Ayrshire coastline. The total number of Painted Ladies recorded in Scotland during the 2019 Count was more than 160 times greater than in the same period in 2018! What's more, participants north of the border saw far more Painted Ladies than those down south; on average people in Scotland saw 14 Painted Ladies per count compared with less than three per count in England.

The Small Tortoiseshell also did much better in Scotland than in England. It achieved 2nd place in Scotland, with numbers up 126% on 2018, and on average more than twice as many Small Tortoiseshells were seen per count in Scotland compared to England. Many other species fared rather poorly however. As was seen elsewhere across the UK, populations of all three whites decreased markedly (all by over 50%), while the Peacock also fell back from the very high numbers recording in Scotland in summer 2018. Its abundance was down by one third, but the species still managed third place.

Scotland saw the biggest increase in participation in big butterfly count 2019, with the number of counts and the number of contributors both more than doubling from 2018.

Wales

As elsewhere in the UK, Painted Lady was the most abundant species recorded in Wales in big butterfly count 2019. Unusually though, many of the highest counts came from the north coast and Anglesey, rather than south Wales as is normally the case for this immigrant butterfly. Four times more Painted Ladies were reported than the next most abundant species (the Peacock) and 25 times more were seen in summer 2019 compared to the same period the previous year.

The Peacock (up 153% on 2018), Small Tortoiseshell (up 138%) and Red Admiral (up 54%) all did well, as did the day-flying Six-spot Burnet moth, which was up 169% in the Principality.

The three common white butterfly species were the standout losers in Wales. Small White and Large White dropped from first and second place in 2018 to 5th and 7th respectively, with declines of over 50%. The Green-veined White also suffered a decrease in population of 50%. The Common Blue, which had a very good year in Wales in 2018, finishing 4th in terms of abundance, decreased by 61% and fell to 10th place.

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