Rare UK butterflies 'bounce back'

Grizzled Skipper (c) Peter Eeles The grizzled skipper was one species that benefited from the weather conditions

Related Stories

Record-breaking temperatures and dry weather in spring last year led to an increase in the numbers of many species of rare butterfly, a study suggests.

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and charity Butterfly Conservation said the weather had provided perfect conditions for "spring specialists".

Their study was based on assessments of over 1,000 UK butterfly habitat sites.

Species that did particularly well included the Duke of Burgundy butterfly - listed as threatened in the UK.

Long-term, this species has declined by more than 40% in the last 30 years.

UK butterfly facts

Swallowtail butterfly
  • The large blue butterfly became extinct in the UK in 1979; they have since been successfully reintroduced
  • Spectacular swallowtails are the UK's largest resident butterfly with a wingspan of about 10 centimetres
  • Purple emperors feed on honeydew secreted by aphids rather than nectar from flowers
  • The four stunning eyespots on a peacock's wing are there to frighten away or divert predators

It found that the species bucked that declining trend between 2010 and 2011, increasing in numbers by 65%.

Spring butterflies fared particularly well: numbers of grizzled skipper rose by 96% and the pearl-bordered fritillary population leapt by 103%.

The much colder weather in the summer was, however, very bad news for more familiar garden species, including the peacock, small tortoiseshell and common blue.

The populations of all three of these species fell significantly.

Marc Botham from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology stressed that it was "important to look beyond the short term boost that last year's weather provided".

"In the long term [many rare species] are still declining," he told BBC Nature.

"What's important is to have good conservation in place, so that when the weather is good, the habitat's there to allow these species to benefit."

He pointed out that such targeted conservation - actively managing and improving butterfly habitat - had resurrected some species.

"The heath fritillary was deemed the next species to become extinct [in Britain]," he said.

Peacock butterfly The cool summer in 2011 led to a decline in the population of peacock butterflies

Work to preserve the coppiced woodland this species needs in the South East of England has meant that in one particular woodland the species is now "thriving".

Dr Tom Brereton, head of monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said that many butterflies relied on "old-fashioned landscapes" that were declining in the UK.

"We have 58 species in Britain and about 30 of them are restricted to semi-natural habitats," he said, "Ancient woodlands, heathland, sand dunes or marshland - they're all habitats where there hasn't been any agriculture or development.

"Targeted conservation [of these habitats] will be the only thing that helps them."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More from nature

  • Cardinal fish and ostracodFish filmed spitting 'fireworks'

    Film crew captures ostracods' spectacular defensive lightshow that makes predatory fish spit them out.

  • Arapaima'Locally extinct'

    A giant fish which used to dominate the Amazon river is now absent in many areas


  • DragonflyRapid reactions

    Dragonfly's super quick reactions recorded in slow motion by BBC film-makers


  • Wingless adult male of the midge Belgica antarcticaExtreme survivor

    Antarctic midge's small genome may be an adaptation to its extreme environment


  • Myotis midastactus specimen (previously identified as Myotis simus)Golden discovery

    A bat from Bolivia is described as a new species by scientists


  • Dinosaurs 'shrank' to become birds

    Huge meat-eating, land-living dinosaurs evolved into birds by constantly shrinking for over 50 million years, new research shows.

  • Would we starve without bees?

    Honey bees are under threat, and as pollination significantly contributes to the food we eat, what would we do without them?

  • Eggshells may act like 'sunblock'

    Birds' eggs show adaptations in pigment concentration and thickness to allow the right amount of sun for embryos, scientists say.

  • Female shrimps are more aggressive

    Female snapping shrimps are more aggressive than males when defending their territories despite their smaller claw size, a study shows.

BBC iWonder

  • Honey bee close-upInsect intelligence

    Are honey bees as smart as your sat nav?

  • Tyrannosaurus rex skull (c) Mark Williamson / Science Photo LibraryDinosaur dynasty

    One group of dinosaurs survived and their descendants can be seen all around us today


  • Brown rat cluse upRise of the rodent

    Reports of giant, 'super rats' are filling the headlines. But why are we being overrun by rats?


  • Cuckoo portraitHoliday hotspot

    What makes the UK such an attractive destination for visiting wildlife?


Awesome! And there's nothing common about such beauty.

Elaine Bernon on Facebook comments on the trio of common blue butterflies in our Photo of the Day.

Things To Do

RUN BY THE BBC AND PARTNERS

More Nature Activities >

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.