Alex Easton MLA urges residents in North Down to join the Big Butterfly Count to see how the insects are faring.

Speaking today Alex Easton MLA said:

The count is regarded as the biggest natural history citizen science project in the world. Participants count how many butterflies they see in a fifteen-minute period and upload their results online, especially if they do not see any. Last year, more than 1,200 counts were recorded in Northern Ireland, with almost 100,000 counts across the UK.

Butterflies are seen as an important barometer for climate change as they react to changing weather patterns.

In last year’s count, some species of butterflies had almost halved in Northern Ireland. The number of butterflies has declined in the UK by 80% since the 1970s. Half of the butterfly species in the UK are threatened or near threatened with extinction due to extreme weather.

That is because extreme weather affects the food available to the insects before the crucial pupation stage, when they form a chrysalis and transform into butterflies.

Northern Ireland has seen extreme weather this year, from heavy rain to bouts of drought. The weather has caused plants to wither, which does not help the insect.

“Butterfly caterpillars will eat plants, so if those plants are withering in the drought, for example, that can really affect the numbers.

“We really want to know what’s going on, this year in particular, following the recent extreme weather events,” she added. They can be carried out in gardens, parks or anywhere outdoors and instructions can be found on the website. Results can be added online at https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/ or via the Big Butterfly Count app. The count continues until 6 August.

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