Number of butterflies in Norfolk at record low

A lovely swallowtail butterfly

A lovely swallowtail butterfly - Credit: Joe Lenton

A worrying new survey has found that the number of butterflies in Norfolk is at a record low.

The Big Butterfly Survey, conducted by volunteers for Butterfly Conservation, counted nationally, 1,238,405 butterflies and moths, a 14pc reduction from last year.

It is thought that the reduction may have been partially caused by May being an extremely wet month, with the fourth-highest amount of rainfall on record for the month.

The rain would have hindered the butterflies and moths from both feeding and breeding.

Andy Brazil, county butterfly recorder for Butterfly Conservation Norfolk, said the picture was the same in this region: "It's been a terrible year for a lot of species, mostly because of weather. We had an early spring and a wet May which really hammered the new broods.

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"It used to be that you'd see 60 butterflies in a meadow, now you see six. There are just generally fewer. Though butterflies are robust, they can bounce back.

"We may have good years and bad years, but the overwhelming trend is down and over the next 40 years the number of butterflies will continue to decline."

A ringlet butterfly

A ringlet butterfly - Credit: Barry Madden

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Those butterflies that have seemingly suffered in Norfolk especially are the Common Blue, Ringlet, and Small Tortoiseshell.

However, Norfolk does seem to be bucking some trends, with previously extinct species arriving from the south, giving hope to the butterfly population. The Silver-Washed Fritillary, Purple Emperor, and Large Tortoiseshell have arrived from Europe due to climate change.

Some species that the Norfolk branch of Butterfly Conservation recommends looking out for include Swallowtails, Silver-studded Blue, White Admiral, Grayling, Dark Green Fritillary, and Grizzled Skipper.

Mr Brazil added that declining habitats of butterflies also affect their declining population, saying: "If numbers are already low due to habitat decline, it makes it all the harder for them to bounce back after a bad year.

"Something that people can do for adult butterflies is put nectar sources in their gardens and plant pollinators. But they also need to not cut down weeds like nettles and ivy, as this is where butterflies lay their eggs.

"The urge to 'tidy up' the countryside plays a huge role in declining pollinator populations. We need to stop destroying the out-of-the-way corners where butterflies lay eggs, and instead encourage the flora they need to thrive."

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