Hot dry summer impacts UK butterfly populations - Butterfly Conservation

(image: Butterfly Conservation)
(image: Butterfly Conservation)

The heatwave and drought of summer 2022 has had a major negative impact on some UK butterfly species, a study has confirmed.

The latest results from the annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) led by Butterfly Conservation, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), show that the extreme weather 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, and scientists fear that there will be similar negative impacts on other butterfly species when they start to emerge in 2023.

Drought impacts the offspring of the butterflies that are flying during the hot dry weather by causing the plants that caterpillars rely on for food to wither and die. Without sufficient food, many caterpillars will fail to survive, leading to lower numbers of butterflies in the next generation. For some of the UK species that have more than one generation in a year, the resulting major decline in numbers has already been seen. However, for others, the next generation isn’t on the wing until this summer, meaning there could be noticeably fewer butterflies around in 2023.

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Posted On: 30/03/2023

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