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Butterfly count extended

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 11:13 UK time, Tuesday, 2 August 2011

It'll come as no surprise to you, to learn, that this year's Big Butterfly Count has been extended for an extra week, due to bad weather.

Butterflies don't like to fly in dull, damp conditions, so in order to get the best results, organisers have decided to continue counting until August 7.

Butterflies, (like hot summers and wildflowers), are something we tend to think we saw more of when we were kids but sadly in this case, it's true.

I interviewed the head of Butterfly Conservation Wales, Russell Hobson, on the programme this week for Country Focus, BBC Radio Wales and he revealed some stark figures. You can listen to the programme again on BBC i Player.

Seven out of ten of our native butterfly species are declining and half are threatened with extinction.

The main reason is loss of habitat - something we often hear about when discussing wildlife but Russell mentioned some simple ways in which we can all help.

There are several plants and flowers we can introduce to our gardens to attract and help butterflies - any nectar producing flowers e.g. such as honeysuckle, hyacinth, hydrangea and geraniums and other insects will also benefit from having these plants around.

This is only the second year there's been a Big Butterfly Count and last year an incredible 10,000 people took part, recording an impressive 189,000 sightings between them.

It's the biggest event of its kind in the world, according to Butterfly Conservation, an organisation that can claim to have Sir David Attenborough as its President. He describes butterflies as the "stars of the British countryside" and adds that "summer wouldn't be summer without them".

small tortoiseshell butterfly. Image by Bracken B.

Organisers are keen for people to report any sightings of the small tortoiseshell butterfly. Image by Bracken B.

Anyone can take part. Just sit in a sunny place and spend fifteen minutes counting every butterfly you see, then post the results online.

I tried it myself recently and saw four small white butterflies, so it definitely works. The results of last year's count provided a Top 10 of British Butterflies.

Top of the list was the small white, followed by large white, gatekeeper, meadow brown, common blue, peacock, green-veined white, red Admiral, small tortoiseshell and the ringlet.

They also discovered that Britain's most common butterfly - the meadow brown suffered a terrible year, but the common blue enjoyed an excellent summer.

this year, though, they're expecting that one of the hottest, driest springs on record will influence the findings as many butterflies will have emerged earlier than usual, but will have found their food sources vanishing as plants wilted and died in the heat.

There are two garden butterflies in particular that organisers would like you to keep your eyes open for - the small tortoiseshell and the peacock, both of which have seen their populations plummet in recent years.

If you seen any butterflies, log the details online.


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