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Wildlife charity urges people to look out for butterflies to help with climate change research

A wildlife charity is asking us all to look out for butterflies to help measure the impact of climate change while its scientists are in lockdown.

Butterfly Conservation is urging the public to help contribute to assessing the effects of climate change while its scientists and volunteers are unable to carry out monitoring of wildlife sites.

Look out for butterflies, such as this small tortoiseshell butterfly
Look out for butterflies, such as this small tortoiseshell butterfly

A vital indicator of the effects of climate change in the UK, butterfly phenology (the study of the timing of natural events) recording is going to be severely affected by restrictions on movement.

Richard Fox, associate director of recording and research said: "Studying the changing flight times and locations of butterfly species across the UK is vital to understanding the impacts of climate change on our native wildlife.

"This spring we are going to have a gap in our phenology data. So, we are asking the general public to please help us out. This is something you can do for science and climate change in your own back garden. We know that climate change is making butterflies emerge earlier in spring and some are spreading to new parts of the UK. We need you to tell us where and when you saw them."

The Common Blue Butterfly
The Common Blue Butterfly

"As the climate has warmed, butterflies have tended to fly earlier in the year and, in some cases, produce more generations each year, but it’s not yet clear how these changes will affect their fortunes in the long term.

He added: "Keep a look out in your garden for butterflies such as the Brimstone, Comma, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Orange-tip. We want your records, and to know when you saw them."

"Monitoring the changing distributions of butterflies is important to understanding the effects of climate change on our environment. We know that for some species climate change has helped to boost numbers, while for others it has had an adverse effect, but there’s still so much to learn.

"You never know what you might see. There has even been a scattering of Painted Lady butterfly sightings across the country in the last week. This species is a migrant from warmer parts of Europe, which normally arrives at the end of May or early June.

"We can’t gather data in our usual ways this spring, so we need the help of everyone who is at home, with a garden or outdoor space, during the lockdown period. Each recording is important for our work to conserve UK butterflies."

To submit a recording, go to butterfly-conservation.org/mysightings.

For more ways to see wildlife and nature while at home click here.

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