Painted lady butterfly influx needs people to count them

A potential mass influx of butterflies to the UK has led to calls for volunteers to help count them.

The painted lady butterfly commonly flies to the UK during the summer months, but every 10 years millions arrive in a mass migration.

Butterfly Conservation said unusually high numbers of painted ladies had been spotted flying from Europe to the UK.

The charity urged people to take part in an annual count to see if this year marks a “painted lady summer”.

About 11 million painted ladies arrived in the UK the last time the phenomenon happened in 2008.

‘Promising’ signs

Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, who is vice president of Butterfly Conservation, described the mass migration as “one of the wonders of the natural world”.

He said the butterfly flies at speeds of up to 30mph on its “extraordinary” 7,500-mile (12,070km) annual journey from Africa to the Arctic Circle and back.

Mr Packham said the high number of reported sightings of the painted lady across Europe over the spring and early summer meant it was “promising” that 2019 “could be a very good year” for the species.

He urged wildlife watchers to get involved with the Big Butterfly Count – which begins on Friday and runs until 11 August – drawing attention to the mental health benefits of spending time immersed in nature.

To take part in the world’s biggest butterfly count, people must spend 15 minutes in a sunny spot anywhere in the UK, counting the butterflies they see before submitting sightings online or via the Big Butterfly Count app.

Participants are encouraged to spot and record 17 species of common butterfly, including painted ladies, and two day-flying moths, to help experts see how the insects are faring.