big butterfly count

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big butterfly count 2010 results: country by country

There are many similarities in the big butterfly count results across the UK, but also some interesting differences. Of course, not all species occur in each country, but among butterflies and moths that are widespread the data you collected show some notable patterns.

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


Northern Ireland



1. Gatekeeper 1. Small White 1. Small White 1. Small White
2. Large White 2. Green-veined White 2. Large White 2. Large White
3. Small White 3. Large White 3. Green-veined White 3. Gatekeeper
4. Meadow Brown 4. Meadow Brown 4. Small Tortoiseshell 4. Common Blue
5. Peacock 5. Ringlet

5. Meadow Brown

5. Meadow Brown
6. Common Blue 6. Six-spot Burnet 6. Ringlet 6. Green-veined White
7. Green-veined White 7. Small Tortoiseshell 7. Scotch Argus 7. Peacock
8. Red Admiral 8. Speckled Wood 8. Speckled Wood 8. Red Admiral
9. Small Tortoiseshell 9. Common Blue 9. Red Admiral 9. Small Tortoiseshell
10. Comma 10. Small Copper 10. Common Blue 10. Speckled Wood

Within England, we have also broken down your big butterfly count sightings down by region. This was not done in the other UK countries because there were not enough sightings in some regions/areas to justify splitting the data to this level.

One interesting finding concerns the Small Tortoiseshell. Although its appearance in the Top 10 suggests that this beautiful butterfly has recovered from recent population crashes, sightings varied across the UK. The Small Tortoiseshell seems to be faring relatively better in the north than in the south: it was the fourth most common butterfly in Scotland but only the ninth in England and Wales. This north-south divide is also evident across the English regions.

The Gatekeeper was a surprise third place overall in this year's big butterfly count. This butterfly does not occur in Northern Ireland or Scotland, so it reached this place in the rankings based on the numbers seen in England and Wales alone.

Welsh counters see more

Another, not altogether unexpected, result concerned the number of butterflies and day-flying moths seen by big butterfly count participants in different countries. On average, each person in England and Wales counted more insects than participants in Northern Ireland and Scotland. In Wales people noted 24 butterflies and moths on average and in England the average count was 21. However, in Northern Ireland people noted only 16 on average and, in Scotland, 12. This reflects geographical differences in the diversity and abundance of butterflies and moths but may also be influenced by variation in the proportions of counts that took place in different habitats. In spite of these differences between countries, even seeing 12 butterflies is pretty good going in a 15 minute count.

Other variations

The Green-veined White performed particularly well in Northern Ireland and Scotland in relation to England. People who sighted of this butterfly (which does not attack cabbages!) in Northern Ireland and Scotland counted eight individuals on average, but participants in England saw only four on average and those in Wales five per sighting.

In Wales, it was the Common Blue that impressed, coming in fourth place. Participants saw a greater abundance of Common Blues in Wales than in the other countries. Welsh participants saw eight Common Blues on average, twice as many as participants in England and four times as many as those in Northern Ireland.

Thanks to you all!

Not surprisingly, there were many more participants in England than in the other UK countries - many more people live in England. However, butterflies and moths don't recognise borders so the involvement of people in all countries was absolutely vital to ensure the success of this first ever big butterfly count. The results show that there are interesting differences across the UK as well as many similarities.

Back to main results page Back to 2010 results map page How you can help butterflies

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