Here are some recent good news reports about butterflies in the UK:
The UK experienced its best summer for butterflies in over two decades in 2020, according to a report from the charity Butterfly Conservation. The report found that 2020 was a record-breaking year for 10 species of butterfly, including the Comma, the Red Admiral, and the Small Copper.
The rewilding of Knepp Estate in West Sussex has led to an increase in butterfly populations, including rare species such as the Purple Emperor and the Duke of Burgundy. The estate has been managed as a rewilding project since 2001, with grazing animals such as longhorn cattle and Tamworth pigs playing a key role in creating a diverse and healthy ecosystem.
A project to restore and create wildflower meadows in the Peak District National Park has led to an increase in butterfly populations, including the Common Blue and the Meadow Brown. The project, which was funded by the EU LIFE programme, involved planting over 600,000 wildflowers across 20 sites in the national park.
The expansion of woodland and hedgerows in Cornwall has led to an increase in butterfly populations, according to a report from the charity Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The report found that the expansion of native trees such as oak, hazel, and rowan had created new habitats for butterflies such as the Silver-washed Fritillary and the Purple Hairstreak.
The reintroduction of the Chequered Skipper butterfly to England has been successful, with the first eggs laid in the wild in over 40 years. The Chequered Skipper, which was declared extinct in England in 1976, was reintroduced to Rockingham Forest in Northamptonshire in 2019 as part of a project led by the Butterfly Conservation charity.
These reports demonstrate that efforts to protect and restore butterfly habitats in the UK are having a positive impact on butterfly populations, with many species showing signs of recovery.
Butterflies in the UK - the bad news
Here are some recent bad news reports about butterflies in the UK:
A report from the charity Butterfly Conservation found that the UK's rarest butterfly, the High Brown Fritillary, is at risk of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The report found that the butterfly has declined by 89% since the 1970s and that urgent action is needed to save the species.
The Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, once one of the UK's most common butterfly species, has suffered a decline of 73% in the last 10 years, according to a report from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. The decline has been attributed to factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and the use of pesticides.
The UK's butterfly population has declined by 27% since 2000, according to a report from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The report found that 70% of UK butterfly species have declined in abundance, with factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and agricultural intensification contributing to the decline.
A survey of butterfly populations in the UK's urban areas found that butterfly numbers have declined by 69% in the last 20 years. The survey, carried out by the charity Butterfly Conservation, found that factors such as habitat loss, pollution, and climate change are contributing to the decline.
The decline of butterfly populations in the UK has had a knock-on effect on other species, such as birds and bats, which rely on butterflies as a food source. A study by the RSPB found that the decline of butterfly populations has led to a decline in bird and bat populations, with species such as the Spotted Flycatcher and the Greater Horseshoe Bat suffering declines in numbers.
These reports highlight the serious threats facing butterfly populations in the UK, and the urgent need for action to protect and restore their habitats.
In the UK, which butterflies are extinct or endangered?
Several butterfly species in the UK have gone extinct or are currently endangered due to habitat loss, climate change, and other factors. Here are some examples:
The Large Blue butterfly went extinct in the UK in the 1970s but was successfully reintroduced in the 1980s. It remains a rare and endangered species.
The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is listed as endangered in the UK due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
The High Brown Fritillary butterfly is listed as endangered in the UK due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and climate change.
The Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly is listed as endangered in the UK due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and changes in land management practices.
The Small Blue butterfly is listed as vulnerable in the UK due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
The Heath Fritillary butterfly is listed as endangered in the UK due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
The Large Heath butterfly is listed as endangered in the UK due to habitat loss, drainage of wetlands, and changes in land management practices.
The Grayling butterfly is listed as vulnerable in the UK due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
These are just a few examples of the butterfly species in the UK that are currently endangered or have gone extinct. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore their habitats and populations.
Learning about butterflies - EYFS curriculum
In the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, there are opportunities to learn about butterflies through the Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design areas of learning. Here are some examples:
Understanding the World - Children can learn about the life cycle of a butterfly and how it changes over time. They can observe and explore different stages of the life cycle, such as caterpillars, chrysalis, and adult butterflies.
Expressive Arts and Design - Children can create butterfly art and craft projects, such as making butterfly collages, painting or drawing butterflies, or making butterfly mobiles or puppets.
Communication and Language - Children can develop their language skills by describing the physical characteristics of butterflies, discussing their habitats, and using new vocabulary related to butterflies and their life cycle.
Physical Development - Children can engage in outdoor activities, such as butterfly hunts, where they search for and observe different species of butterflies in their natural habitats.
Mathematics - Children can learn about symmetry by examining the symmetrical patterns on butterfly wings and creating their own symmetrical butterfly art.
These activities can help to foster children's curiosity and fascination with the natural world, while also promoting their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Teachers can use a range of resources and materials, such as books, posters, videos, and outdoor spaces, to support children's learning about butterflies in the EYFS curriculum.
Learning about butterflies - the KS1 curriculum
In the Key Stage 1 (KS1) curriculum, there are several opportunities for children to learn about butterflies, particularly in the Science and Art & Design areas of learning. Here are some examples:
Science - Children can learn about the life cycle of butterflies, including the different stages of development, and the role of pollinators in the ecosystem. They can also explore the different habitats and environments where butterflies live, and learn about the factors that can affect their survival, such as climate change and habitat loss.
Art & Design - Children can create artwork inspired by butterflies, such as painting, drawing, or collage. They can also make models of butterflies, and learn about the symmetry and patterns on butterfly wings.
English - Children can read and write stories or information texts about butterflies, including non-fiction books about their life cycle and habitats, and fictional stories about butterfly characters.
Geography - Children can explore the different regions of the world where different species of butterflies are found, and learn about the physical and human geography of these regions.
Mathematics - Children can learn about symmetry by exploring the symmetry of butterfly wings, and creating their own symmetrical butterfly artwork.
These activities can help to develop children's curiosity and appreciation for the natural world, while also promoting their scientific inquiry skills, creative thinking, and cross-curricular learning. Teachers can use a range of resources, such as books, posters, videos, and field trips, to support children's learning about butterflies in the KS1 curriculum.
Learning about butterflies - the KS2 curriculum
In the Key Stage 2 (KS2) curriculum, there are several opportunities for children to learn about butterflies, particularly in the Science and Geography areas of learning. Here are some examples:
Science - Children can learn about the anatomy and physiology of butterflies, including their body structure, organs, and life cycle. They can also investigate the different adaptations that butterflies have developed to survive in their environments, such as camouflage and mimicry.
Geography - Children can explore the distribution and diversity of butterfly species around the world, and learn about the different habitats and ecosystems where they live. They can also investigate the impact of human activities, such as deforestation and climate change, on butterfly populations and their habitats.
Art & Design - Children can create artwork inspired by butterflies, such as drawing, painting, or printmaking. They can also use digital media to create interactive butterfly displays or animations.
English - Children can write persuasive texts or arguments about the importance of conserving butterfly habitats and protecting their populations. They can also write informational texts about butterfly species, their life cycle, and their habitats.
Mathematics - Children can learn about symmetry and geometric patterns by exploring the symmetry and patterns on butterfly wings, and creating their own symmetrical butterfly designs.
These activities can help to develop children's scientific inquiry skills, environmental awareness, creativity, and cross-curricular learning. Teachers can use a range of resources, such as books, posters, videos, and field trips, to support children's learning about butterflies in the KS2 curriculum.
How to attract butterflies to your garden
Butterflies are attracted to gardens that provide food, water, shelter, and places to lay their eggs. Here are some tips on how to attract butterflies to your garden:
Choose the right plants: Butterflies are attracted to flowers that have flat tops or clusters of short, tubular flowers. Some good options include zinnias, marigolds, black-eyed Susans, milkweeds, and butterfly bushes.
Plant in sunny locations: Butterflies love to bask in the sun, so make sure your garden gets plenty of sunlight.
Provide a water source: Butterflies need a source of water to drink from, especially in hot weather. You can provide a shallow dish of water with some rocks for them to perch on.
Avoid using pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to butterflies, so avoid using them in your garden.
Create a butterfly-friendly habitat: Butterflies need places to rest, shelter, and lay their eggs. You can provide this by planting a mix of flowers, shrubs, and trees, and leaving some areas of your garden wild and undisturbed.
Provide food for butterfly larvae: Many butterfly species have specific host plants that their larvae feed on. Research which plants are the host plants for the butterflies in your area, and plant them in your garden.
By following these tips, you can create a garden that is attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.
Plants to attract butterflies
Samantha outlines how some key flowering plants can attract butterflies to your garden. Plants with simple flowers and plenty of pollen are ideal such as foxgloves, crabapple, lavendar and dahlias to name a few.
There are many plants that can attract butterflies to your garden, providing them with nectar, shelter, and a place to lay their eggs. Here are some of the best plants to attract butterflies:
Milkweed: This is the host plant for monarch butterflies and provides nectar for other butterfly species.
Butterfly bush (Buddleia): This plant has long spikes of colorful flowers that attract a variety of butterfly species.
Coneflower (Echinacea): This perennial produces large, daisy-like flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators.
Lantana: This colorful plant produces clusters of small flowers that are rich in nectar, making it a favorite of many butterfly species.
Black-eyed Susan: This plant produces yellow or orange daisy-like flowers that attract a variety of butterfly species.
Verbena: This plant produces clusters of small, fragrant flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators.
Aster: This fall-blooming plant produces daisy-like flowers in shades of pink, purple, and blue that attract butterflies.
Zinnia: This colorful annual produces large, showy flowers that attract a variety of butterfly species.
By planting a variety of these plants, you can create a butterfly-friendly garden that provides food and shelter for these important pollinators. When selecting plants, it's important to choose varieties that are native to your region and that provide a range of blooming times throughout the season to ensure a steady supply of nectar for butterflies.
How to make a butterfly feeder
Making a butterfly feeder is a simple and fun project that can help attract butterflies to your garden. Here's how to make a butterfly feeder:
A shallow dish or saucer
A piece of sponge or cotton ball
Twine or string
Take a shallow dish or saucer and fill it with a mixture of sugar and water. The ratio should be 1:9, i.e., one part sugar to nine parts water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Cut a small piece of sponge or cotton ball and soak it in the sugar-water mixture.
Tie a piece of twine or string around the sponge or cotton ball and hang it from a tree branch or other high spot in your garden.
Make sure to check the feeder every few days and refill it with fresh sugar water as needed.
The sweet sugar water will attract butterflies, who will sip the nectar from the sponge or cotton ball. You can also decorate the feeder with colourful flowers or ribbons to make it more attractive to butterflies.
This video from the Natural History Museum shows how to attract butterflies with a butterfly feeder, and using overripe fruit. Its economical size means it can fit in a small garden or even a balcony.
How to make a butterfly house
Making a butterfly house is a fun and simple project that can provide a safe and sheltered habitat for butterflies in your garden. Here's how to make a butterfly house:
A wooden box or crate with an open front
Thin wooden slats or bamboo canes
Nails or wood glue
Take a wooden box or crate with an open front. The box should be at least 12 inches tall and 6 inches wide.
Cut thin wooden slats or bamboo canes to fit inside the box. The slats or canes should be about 3/4 of an inch apart and run horizontally across the box.
Sand down the edges of the slats or canes to remove any rough spots.
Nail or glue the slats or canes inside the box, making sure they are securely attached.
Cut a piece of wood or cardboard to fit over the top of the box, leaving a small gap for butterflies to enter and exit.
Attach the cover to the top of the box with nails or wood glue.
Hang the butterfly house in a sheltered location in your garden, such as under a tree or on a fence.
As you learn more about how to attract butterflies you will find that the butterfly house is a key feature as it provides a safe and sheltered habitat for butterflies to roost and lay their eggs. The wooden slats or bamboo canes inside the box provide perches for the butterflies to rest on. By creating a butterfly house, you can help support the survival and reproduction of butterflies in your garden.
Why attract butterflies to your garden?
Attracting butterflies to your garden is not only a beautiful addition but also has several benefits for both the garden and the environment. Here are some reasons why you may want to attract butterflies to your garden:
Pollination: Butterflies are important pollinators that help plants produce fruits, vegetables, and seeds. By attracting butterflies to your garden, you are helping to pollinate plants and support a healthy ecosystem.
Biodiversity: Attracting butterflies to your garden can also help promote biodiversity by creating a habitat for a variety of insects, birds, and other wildlife.
Aesthetic appeal: Butterflies are colorful and graceful, and they add beauty and charm to any garden. Attracting butterflies to your garden can create a delightful and relaxing atmosphere that you can enjoy.
Educational opportunity: Watching butterflies in your garden can be a great learning experience for both children and adults. You can learn about the life cycle of butterflies, their behavior, and their role in the ecosystem.
Conservation: Many butterfly species are in decline due to habitat loss and other factors. By creating a butterfly-friendly garden, you are helping to conserve these important species and support their survival.
Learning how to attract butterflies to your garden can be a rewarding and beneficial experience that enhances your garden's beauty and supports a healthy ecosystem.
Resources for learning about butterflies
Here are ten resources that teachers can use to help children learn about butterflies:
The Butterfly Conservation charity offers a range of resources for teachers, including lesson plans, fact sheets, and identification guides. Their website also has information on how to create butterfly-friendly habitats in school grounds.
The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme provides resources and guidance on how to monitor and survey butterfly populations in the UK. This can be a great way for students to get involved in citizen science and learn about the scientific process.
The Wildlife Trusts offer a range of resources for teachers, including activity sheets, videos, and lesson plans on a variety of wildlife topics, including butterflies.
The Royal Horticultural Society offers a range of resources on gardening for wildlife, including information on how to create butterfly-friendly habitats and attract butterflies to your garden.
The Woodland Trust offers a range of resources on woodland conservation, including information on how to create woodland habitats for butterflies and other wildlife.
The National Curriculum website offers guidance on how to teach about minibeasts, including butterflies, at the primary level.
The BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes often feature segments on butterflies and other wildlife. Teachers can use clips from these programmes as part of their lessons.
The Field Studies Council offers a range of field courses and resources for teachers, including courses on butterflies and other invertebrates.
The Buglife charity offers resources on a range of invertebrate species, including butterflies, and provides guidance on how to create habitats for these species.
The National Trust offers a range of resources on wildlife conservation, including information on how to create habitats for butterflies and other wildlife on National Trust properties.
The Royal Entomological Society offers a range of resources for schools, including long-term projects and lesson plans on butterfly identification, ecology, and conservation.
National Geographic Kids has some fantastic resources about butterflies, such as videos, maps and detailed information in kid-friendly language. Colourful and engaging!
These resources can help teachers to engage students in learning about butterflies and their habitats, and inspire them to take action to protect and conserve these important species.
Join the monarch butterfly citizen science project!
The monarch butterfly is considered a threatened species, but it is not currently classified as endangered. However, its population has declined significantly in recent years, and there are ongoing concerns about its long-term survival.
The main threats to monarch butterflies include habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, and disease. Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed plants to lay their eggs and for their larvae to feed on, but milkweed has been heavily impacted by agricultural practices and urbanization.
To help protect monarch butterflies and support their recovery, conservation efforts are underway. These include planting milkweed and other nectar-rich plants, reducing pesticide use, and preserving and restoring habitat. In addition, several organizations and government agencies are working to monitor and study the monarch butterfly population and develop conservation strategies to help ensure its survival.
Organisations working towards saving butterflies and their habitats
There are several organizations that are working towards saving butterflies and their habitats. Here are a few important ones:
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation: This nonprofit organization focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, including butterflies and their habitats. They provide resources and support for butterfly conservation, including habitat restoration, research, and advocacy.
The North American Butterfly Association (NABA): This organization is dedicated to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of butterflies. They work to protect butterfly habitats, promote butterfly gardening, and conduct research on butterfly populations.
Butterfly Conservation:Based in the UK, this charity works to conserve butterflies and their habitats through research, education, and advocacy. They provide resources and support for butterfly conservation efforts, including habitat restoration and species monitoring.
Monarch Joint Venture: This partnership of organizations works to conserve the monarch butterfly and its habitats throughout North America. They focus on habitat restoration, research, and education, and provide resources and support for monarch butterfly conservation efforts.
Pollinator Partnership: This nonprofit organization focuses on the conservation of pollinators, including butterflies. They work to protect and restore pollinator habitats, promote pollinator-friendly practices, and conduct research on pollinator populations.
These organizations, among others, play important roles in protecting and conserving butterflies and their habitats. Their efforts help to ensure that these beautiful and important insects continue to thrive for generations to come.