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Latest butterfly abundance statistics released

News Item 2023

The latest results from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS), led by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have recently (Friday 24 March 2023) been published.  

Butterflies are one of the best monitored groups of animals in the UK, and these recent results present population trends at a UK level for 58 of the 59 regularly occurring species. Overall, the results show that 2022 was an average year for butterflies, ranking 27th in the 47-year series.

Butterfly populations fluctuate naturally from year to year, largely due to the weather. This latest update appears to show that the extreme drought conditions experienced across much of the UK in the summer of 2022 has had a significant impact on some butterfly species. The Green-veined White, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone, all familiar garden and countryside butterflies, appeared in good or average numbers during the spring and early summer, but numbers in the subsequent generations were greatly reduced following the widespread drought conditions.

The long-term trends of UK butterflies are mainly driven by human activity, particularly the deterioration of habitats, and climate change. However, conservation efforts can make a real difference to local populations, and 2022 was a good year for some species, including Purple Emperor, Large Blue, Chequered Skipper and Dark Green Fritillary, all of which have been the focus of targeted conservation work over the last few years.

Following the lower levels of data collected in 2020 due to COVID-19, record numbers of sites were surveyed in 2022. Data were collected from over 3,000 sites by thousands of dedicated volunteers, without whom this invaluable dataset would not be possible to generate or maintain. The UKBMS partners are incredibly grateful to each and every volunteer for their contribution

The UK Butterfly and Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) is a long-term monitoring scheme (running since 1976) involving repeat sampling at thousands of locations across the UK. The key method involves weekly counts of butterflies along defined transects on days with suitable weather criteria from April to September. The UKBMS also includes butterfly counts from randomly selected Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey squares (which include BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey squares) and targeted species surveys. For more information go to and @UKBMSLive on twitter.

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