UK sees red!
Wildlife charity, Butterfly Conservation, has revealed a huge surge in sightings of the Red Admiral, a migrant species of butterfly, during the Big Butterfly Count.
The Red Admiral is currently flying high with 170,000 sightings reported so far, an impressive increase of 400% on the same period last year.
It is definitely a ‘Red Admiral year’, with people throughout the country reporting seeing the butterfly while taking part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count.
The Red Admiral is a familiar and popular butterfly across the UK. It is a garden favourite and found in all types of habitat. However, what may come as a surprise to many is that this small but mighty butterfly is a migrant species, travelling to the UK from North Africa and continental Europe!
There can be no doubt that climate change is the driver behind a long term increase in Red Admiral numbers.
Each spring, and continuing through the summer, Red Admirals migrate north where the females lay eggs. Consequently, there is an emergence of fresh butterflies from July onwards.
However, in recent years, scientists are seeing an indication that numbers have increased, and that the species is now overwintering in the UK, particularly in the South of England.
With temperatures increasing, the Red Admiral’s need to return to its southerly winter habitat is reducing, which means it is possible we will see a greater number of the species spending the winter in the UK.
This year’s early results show why the Big Butterfly Count is so important in helping scientists to understand how the weather and changing climate are affecting butterflies.
Dr Zoë Randle, senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation, explains: ‘We have been surprised to see the Red Admiral taking the lead, however with the increased frequency of warm weather, the UK may well become a permanent home for this species.
‘The results so far show just how vital the Big Butterfly Count is. We couldn’t get the depth and breadth of data we are collecting without the help of the general public.
‘With climate change here to stay, we need people to take part more than ever before and help us understand how extreme weather is affecting our butterflies.’
For more information and to take part simply visit www.bigbutterflycount.org
Picture courtesy: ©Mark Searle, Butterfly Conservation.