It was once a common sight in high-summer: beautiful butterflies fluttering over borders and garden ponds.

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But now butterflies are declining more rapidly in urban areas than in the countryside – with some species in danger of dying out.

A study by Butterfly Conservation, the University of Kent and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology looked at 28 butterfly species in urban and countryside environments.

Over a 20-year period, urban butterfly abundance fell by 69 per cent, compared to a 45 per cent decline for butterflies in rural areas.

The small copper and small heath butterfly declined more dramatically in towns and cities than in the countryside.

From 1995 to 2014, small copper abundance fell by 75 per cent in urban areas compared to a 23 per cent fall in rural locations.

The small heath suffered a huge decline of 78 per cent in urban areas, but just a 17 per cent fall in the countryside.

Lead researcher Dr Emily Jones said: “We used sophisticated techniques to reveal that practically all butterflies we assessed were found to be struggling in urban areas, most likely due to the combined effects of habitat loss, climate change and intensification of land use.”

The study revealed that the majority of butterflies in towns and cities are emerging earlier and are on the wing for longer than the same species living in rural areas.