Research finds 2014 was a bumper year for butterflies

Research finds 2014 was a bumper year for butterflies

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There is good news for butterfly lovers this month, as a study has shown that some of Britain's rarest species enjoyed favourable weather conditions that allowed them to increase in numbers last year.

The research by the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology involved thousands of volunteers, who ventured to 2,250 sites across the country during the summer to collect data on a number of different species.

Its results have now been published and show that several types of butterfly thrived during 2014, including the critically endangered High Brown Fritillary.

Indeed, it experienced its best season for a decade, with numbers up by more than 180 per cent compared to 2013. This was attributed to warm spring weather and extensive work to restore its preferred habitats, although the damp conditions last May could also have played a part.

The Large Skipper was up 86 per cent, while the rare Lulworth Skipper also enjoyed an increase of 15 per cent.

Other 2014 winners included the Red Admiral (up 189 per cent), the Marbled White, Brimstone and Ringlet (which all displayed their best figures since the survey started in 1976), the Duke of Burgundy (up 26 per cent), the Orange-tip and the Speckled Wood.

Overall, more than half of the butterflies studied demonstrated increases in numbers compared to the previous year.

However, there were also some less favourable figures, with the Large and Small White down 69 and 66 per cent respectively, and the Adonis Blue, the Chalk Hill Blue and the Purple Hairstreak all declining by more than half.

It was suggested this may have been down to an earlier than usual summer, with poor weather arriving in August at the time these butterflies are usually active.

Meanwhile, conservation experts are hoping that the Scarce Tortoiseshell butterfly will breed in Britain for the first time this year. It was spotted in high numbers in Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex last summer and Butterfly Conservation has now received a sighting from Holt Country Park in Norfolk from late March.

This suggests the species may have survived the winter - and now all it needs is a good spring and the chance for breeding pairs to find each other for Britain to enjoy an unprecedented event for lepidopterists.