TV naturalist Chris Packham is urging wildlife lovers to take part in the Big Butterfly Count 2019 to discover if the UK is experiencing a once in a decade nature phenomenon.
Unusually high numbers of migrating Painted Lady butterflies have been reported across Europe over the spring and early summer. Large numbers are now being spotted crossing over into the UK.
A Painted Lady ‘summer’, where millions of the butterflies arrive en masse, happens around once every 10 years the UK. The last one was in 2009 when around 11 million Painted Ladies descended widely across the UK.
Mr Packham, the co-host of BBC 2’s Springwatch programme and vice president of Butterfly Conservation, said: “This butterfly undertakes an extraordinary 7,500-mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle every year – almost double the length of the famous migrations of the Monarch butterfly in North America.
“Signs across Europe are looking very promising, meaning that 2019 could be a very good year for the Painted Lady with high numbers already being recorded across parts of the UK.
“The butterfly can turn up anywhere so please take part in the Big Butterfly Count and look out for them – you could be witnessing a once in a decade butterfly phenomenon.”
The Big Butterfly Count runs from July 19 until August 11. People should find a sunny spot anywhere in the UK and spend 15 minutes counting butterflies. They can then submit their sightings online or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.
Last year more than 100,000 people counted more than one million butterflies in total during the count, which is the world’s biggest butterfly survey. This year is also the count’s tenth birthday.
Taking part in the count not only helps butterflies but it also has benefits for those doing the counting. Research has revealed that watching wildlife and spending time in nature can have positive benefits for mental health and wellbeing.
Mr Packham added: “The mental health benefits of spending time outdoors watching nature have been blindingly obvious to me for as long as I can remember. Immersing yourself in nature, even if it’s just for a few short minutes, changes your perspective, it helps you slow down and notice what’s going on around you and it opens a door to the overlooked beauty and drama of our natural world.”
Butterfly Conservation is being supported by mental health charity Mind to champion the benefits of spending time in nature.
Rachel Boyd, head of content information at Mind, said: “Being outdoors in green environments can help us deal with negative feelings and experiences like depression. Noticing our environment, observing interesting and beautiful things, and being more aware of the world around us can boost our wellbeing and self-esteem. That’s why we’re pleased to see initiatives like the Big Butterfly Count offer opportunities for us to take time out and engage with our natural surroundings.”
The Big Butterfly Count is sponsored by B&Q. The DIY retailer has also commissioned The GoodHome report, which also urges people to get green fingered.
The report, which has been carried out by the Happiness Research Institute, looks at the impact of our homes on our overall happiness and wellbeing. It found that no matter where people live access to green space makes a big difference to happiness levels, highlighting that we are significantly unhappier without it. Having access to some sort of green space like a garden or balcony is universally important.
Steve Guy, market director outdoor for B&Q said: “Getting outside, creating a space for wildlife and connecting with nature is good for children and adults alike, we encourage everyone to get involved, plant some nectar sources for pollinators and join in the Big Butterfly Count 2019.”
Participants are encouraged to spot and record 17 species of common butterfly, including the Painted Lady, and two day-flying moths in the UK during three weeks of high summer (July 19 to August 11).
After counting butterflies for quarter of an hour, people can submit their sightings via www.bigbutterflycount.org or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.
The Big Butterfly Count was being launched today (July 19) at the Natural History Museum in London. Dr Blanca Huertas, senior curator of Lepidoptera, said: “We’re very excited to be part of the 10th anniversary of the Big Butterfly Count. Our work at the museum includes research about biodiversity and inspiring the public to engage in protecting the natural world.
The Big Butterfly Count invites the public to help collect vital data as well as connect with the nature on their doorstep so we hope people of all ages get involved.”