Butterflies Bamboozled in 2011
by Butterfly Conservation
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The record breaking weather in 2011 bemused our butterflies, with unusual sightings being reported throughout the year.
A mild start and the warmest April on record, led many butterflies to emerge weeks ahead of their normal dates. Some threatened species, such as the Grizzled Skipper and Pearl-bordered Fritillary, were seen in surprisingly large numbers in the Spring sunshine.
In contrast, most summer-flying species struggled to survive. It was the coldest summer for 18 years. The Big Butterfly Count results revealed that numbers of common butterflies were down. This population dip will have resulted in fewer eggs being laid, which may have a knock-on effect for summer 2012.
Autumn brought a reprieve for our beleaguered butterflies, with many native species able to extend their flight periods or squeeze in an extra brood, as well as the arrival of marvellous migrant moths and butterflies from southern Europe. Red Admirals were everywhere during the second warmest autumn ever recorded and continued flying into mid-December.
The weather is a matter of life or death for butterflies and 2011 will have left plenty of winners and losers in its wake. We’ll know the full picture in March when all of the data from Butterfly Conservation’s monitoring programmes has been analysed. With the Met Office reluctant to make any predictictions about what lies ahead, we will have to wait and see if this year brings the warm July we are well overdue. Our summer butterflies could really do with a boost.
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