Published: 14:00, 16 July 2021
| Updated: 14:36, 16 July 2021
The world's biggest annual butterfly count begins today.
It encourages people across the country to spend just 15 minutes looking for butterflies in their garden - or nearest open space - to help conservationists understand how the species is doing and the health of our environment.
And with the weather in the next few days set to be a scorcher, here's how you could spend a bit of time taking part while outside this weekend:
What might I see?
There are an estimated 59 UK butterfly species and over 2,000 types of moth but not all of these are found in our gardens. This year, there are 21 species in the official count which people are being asked to see if they can spot.
Butterfly populations also understandably differ between the countryside and towns and cities, which is why it is crucial that households from across the country take part to allow those sifting through the data to get a good selection of results.
Can I help attract butterflies to my garden?
Grass, particularly if left to go wild, is a good protective habitat for butterfly and moth caterpillars and eggs, especially over the winter. It will also encourage wildflowers – such as dandelions and bird’s foot trefoil – to grow which are a good source of nectar for adult insects.
Nettles are also another great plant for butterflies and good food for caterpillars of red admiral, small tortoiseshell, painted lady and comma.
Great examples of butterfly-friendly plants include lavender, Verbena bonariensis, Sedum Hylotelephium spectabile (the pink form), red valerian and wallflowers such as Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’. While the flowers of many herbs -including marjoram, chive and thyme – also benefit both adult butterflies and moths not forgetting humans too!
Outdoor plants on a patio, or even a few in a window box, can be all that's required to begin attracting more insect visitors.
How to complete the count:
Visit the Big Butterfly Count website here and register.
You can also download a free app in order to complete your count, which will take just 15 minutes. Alternatively there is a butterfly ID chart to record sightings, that you can then use to enter information into the website.
Choose a place to spot butterflies and moths and then spend 15 minutes identifying and recording the species you see before submitting your results.
Anything else I need to know?
Don't worry if you don't have time in the next few days - The Big Butterfly Count is running until Sunday, August 8.
And if you enjoyed counting the wildlife in your garden charity Buglife might appreciate your help as well.
The organisation is running a Bugs Matter campaign that encourages travellers to survey the numbers of insects that get caught on car number plates during a journey this summer!
Special 'Splatometers' are available to help you complete the research, which is taking place in numerous areas of the country until the end of August. To learn more click here.