GETTING READY FOR BIG BUTTERFLY COUNT
by Poppy Nicol
Common blue butterfly
On Monday 4th July, Dr. Deborah Sazer gave an online talk about key butterfly and moth species in Wales and how to support them - including via the Big Butterfly Watch.
There are around 40 butterflies in Wales. These include: the Whites and Yellows, Vanessids, Skippers, Browns and Fritillaries and Coppers, Blues and Hairstreaks.
In Wales, the butterfly population has reduced by 52% in the last 20 years, whilst the story is even worse for habitat specialists - declining by 74% across the UK.. So it is really important that we do as much as we can to help butterfly and moth species!
We can help out by getting to know butterfly and moth species found in the UK, recording our observations and by helping to create butterfly and moth friendly gardens...
Getting to know Butterflies and Moths
Deborah recommended getting a field guide and dowloading an app such as i Record Butterflies to record butterfly and moth sightings.
Getting involved in Big Butterfly Count
Big Butterfly Week is an annual chance to take 15 minutes out to observe what butterflies are fluttering around.
All you need to do is take 15 minutes out on a sunny day and choose a spot to observe any of the 20 target species butterflies or moths. You can register to take part here.
Big Butterfly Count: Target species
Creating Butterfly and Moth Friendly Gardens
To survive, butterflies need: foodplants for caterpillars, habitat, adult nectar sites and over-wintering sites. We can help butterflies and moths out by:
Avoiding using any pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or insecticides.
Using peat free , organic compost.
Providing continous nectar for butterflies and moths.
Planting in blocks.
Rethinking weeeds. Nettles are particularly important plants for caterpillars whilst dandelions and brambles are key nectar plants. Ragwort also can be left in gardens where there is no risk that the grass will be cur for forage - around 35 species rely upon it for nectar!
Stopping or reducing mowing.
Diversifying habitats: Ponds and shallow water areas, hedgerows as well as vegetable and herb patches can provide valuable habitat.
Creating wildflower meadows can also support butterflies and moths. Deborah recommended cutting wildflower meadows after mid July after flowers have set seed and suggested cutting at a different time each year to help encourage different flowering plants. Devil's bit scaabious and Knapweed and a number of other flowers for example are out in August to September and provide valuable forage for butterflies and so every few years, Deborah recommends waiting to cut until late September. Keeping an area of long grass within the meadow can also provide valuable habitat for butterflies and moths, but Deborah recommends rotating the area of long grass so it doesn't go too scrubby.