AG readers are being asked to take part in this massive UK survey

Our gardens and the wildlife they contain have been a lifesaver for many during lockdown and now it’s our turn to help nature.

This year’s Big Butterfly Count, which was instigated by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation and supported by B&Q, runs from July 17 until August 9 and it is an essential guide to the health of the UK’s butterfly population.

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Mmore than 113,000 people took part last year and there are hopes that this year will be the biggest yet. All you need to do is spend 15 minutes in an outdoor space counting the amount and type of butterflies and some day-flying moths you see.

Simply visit bigbutterflycount.org to find out more or download the free Big Butterfly Count app on your smartphone to enter your findings.

Naturalist Chris Packham helped launch Big Butterfly Count 2020 Image: Megan McCubbin

World-famous environmentalist and campaigner Chris Packham launched the Count today and said: “While so many of us have had a bit more time to appreciate the nature on our doorsteps during the lockdown period, and learning about the natural world has been a mindful distraction from uncertainty, this is a real chance to do something positive and contribute to conserving nature.

“Butterflies and moths are key indicators of the health of our environment and anyone can help contribute to our understanding of these incredible creatures by taking part in in the Big Butterfly Count.

The red admiral is a strong flier and commonly found in gardens

“The sightings you submit will be used to map and measure populations and the geographic spread of species across the UK. We’re asking everyone who have been given a helping hand from nature this year to return the favour.”

The fine weather that launched spring and summer this year has seen the earliest average emergences of butterflies for the last 20 years and Butterfly Conservation has received thousands of extra enquiries about butterfly and moth sightings made by an ever more nature-loving public.

The small tortoiseshell butterfly is a common sight and often found in gardens

Dr Zoë Randle, Senior Surveys Officer at Butterfly Conservation said: “We’re excited to find out the results from the Big Butterfly Count this year. The very sunny spring weather meant that almost all butterfly species have emerged early this summer, so we’re hoping for some interesting data.

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“As our weather patterns change it’s more important than ever for us to be able capture this information.”

She added: “We’ve seen an incredible amount of interest from people who have been out and about in their gardens and local areas spotting butterflies for the first time.

The common blue is the UK’s most widely-found blue butterfly

“From children learning about the lifecycle of a butterfly from a caterpillar found in their own back gardens to adults who have spotted a fluttering red admiral while exercising outside instead of at the gym. Nature has really shown its true value to us this year, but it is still under threat. Now, more than ever, we must all do our little bit to protect it.”

The painted lady is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland Image: Andrew Cooper

Attracting butterflies is simple if you have plenty of nectar to offer them. Plant as many of their favourite flowers – such as Lavender, Delphinium and Salvia – as you can in a sunny, sheltered spot.

The meadow brown is the most abundant butterfly species in many habitats. Hundreds may be seen together at some sites, flying low over the vegetation. Adults fly even in dull weather when most other butterflies are inactive.

And you don’t need a big outdoor space – a window box or hanging basket with the right nectar giving plants can make you popular with butterflies.

 

Let’s keep gardening!

One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that ‘normal’ life has resumed.

This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens, what we like to grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things go wrong for us too!

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@futurenet.com

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We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello –we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

You can find us at:

Facebook: Facebook.com/AmateurGardeningMagazine

Twitter: Twitter.com/TheAGTeam

Instagram: instagram.com/amgardening_mag

So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello –we will reply as soon as we can. Happy gardening!