‘Soggy summer risk to butterflies’ - Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough pictured launching the Big Butterfly Count 2015, at London Wetland Centre, on 17 July last year. (Submitted Picture: Credit Helen Atkinson).
Sir David Attenborough pictured launching the Big Butterfly Count 2015, at London Wetland Centre, on 17 July last year. (Submitted Picture: Credit Helen Atkinson).

Sir David Attenborough is warning that this year’s slow spring and soggy summer could pose a risk to the common butterflies found across Northern Ireland.

Urging the public to take part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count, Sir David said that people’s sightings were vital in order to chart the effects of the poor weather conditions.

Cold, wet weather can have a disastrous effect on butterfly numbers as the conditions reduce their opportunity to feed and mate.

This year butterflies have endured a slow start to spring with cold conditions experienced during March and snow falling widely well into April, which was colder than average.

Despite a few warm weeks in May, June was a washout for many parts of the UK with sightings of butterflies down on previous years.

This year’s soggy weather follows on from last year’s colder than average summer, meaning a sustained spell of warm and dry weather is much needed to help our common butterfly species mount a recovery.

The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s largest butterfly survey, which encourages people to spot and record 18 species of common butterflies and two day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer.

The Count runs from 15 July to 7 August. Taking part in the Count is very easy - find a sunny spot and spend 15 minutes counting the butterflies you see and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.

The survey can be done in any green space, but people are also being invited to take part in a number of free public events, starting with a guided butterfly walk on Friday, July 22, at Forthill Park in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

Butterfly walks are also taking place in County Tyrone on Saturday, July 30, and in County Carlow on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 August – the last weekend to do the Count.

Information on all events can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org/NIBBC

Butterfly Conservation President, Sir David Attenborough said: “Last year’s wet and cold summer made life difficult for many of our butterflies and coupled with this year’s late spring, our Red Admirals, Small Coppers, Green-veined Whites and Speckled Woods really need a boost of warm summer weather to enable them to thrive.

“During my lifetime I have seen first-hand how the UK’s once plentiful butterflies have dwindled and diminished, with some species even becoming extinct. This is a gloomy outlook but not one that is set in stone. We must make sure these losses are halted and reversed, but in order to achieve this we first need to find out as much information about our butterflies as possible.

“It is vitally important that we gain a clearer picture of how our butterflies are faring. That is why taking part in the Big Butterfly Count is so important – it helps us build a picture of how butterflies are doing in our own neighbourhoods and what help they need from us.”