72% of UK Butterfly Species in Decline


A new study compiled by Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) estimates that 72% of Britain’s butterfly species have declined, and that even common species numbers have fallen by 24%.

The reason? A loss of habitat is thought to be the main reason for this decline.

From BBC news:

The study looks at data over 10 years, based on two long-running surveys. It analyses how many butterflies of each species there are and also looks at how their ranges have changed.

Among those showing the biggest declines were the Pearl-bordered Fritillary, the Duke of Burgundy and the High Brown Fritillary which saw a 69% fall in its population.

Some of the rarest species are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss as they need very specific conditions to thrive.

But the study also found that even common butterflies, including the Small Skipper, Common Blue, and Small Tortoiseshell saw declines over the decade.

In terms of distribution the study reveals that while in the UK butterfly species have declined by about a quarter over the last ten years, numbers in Scotland have increased by 11 percent over the same period.

From Scotsman.com:

Richard Fox, survey manager for the charity, said a number of species were coming to Scotland, but the Comma was a leading example.

“The Borders are the first port of call for butterflies heading north. The Comma is big success story and a particularly striking example because it hadn’t been recorded in Scotland for about 150 years until a decade ago.

“The south of Scotland and the north of England have never had it so good for butterflies. As well as the Comma, the Speckled Wood, Orange-tip, Holly Blue and Small Skipper can now usually be seen in the back garden or while out walking the dog.”

That said, butterfly species that require very specific things from their habitats have also declined in Scotland.

This is especially worrying given Butterfly numbers are used as a general indicator for overall environmental trends and this fall in numbers, coupled with recent studies showing a drop in bird numbers, will likely flag up a wider-ranging biodiversity problem that needs immediate attention.

However, it’s not all bad news. The study did show that focused conservation efforts have helped certain species to recover.

From The Guardian:

The survey did show, however, dramatic recoveries in a few rare species, including the large blue – reintroduced in the 1980s after becoming extinct in this country – which is now expanding its population and range, and the heath fritillary, which has been brought back from the brink of extinction.

Other butterfly species that have seen their numbers rise include the marsh fritillary and the small blue.

Experts are calling for an increase in targeted conservation programs to fight further decline and, in time, reverse the loss of species numbers.

Related Reading:

Rare Two-Sexed Butterfly Hatched in the UK

Female Butterflies Use Their Wings to Tell Males “Not Available”

Monarch Butterflies Use Plants As Medicine (Video)

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Travelling Steve.


W. C
W. C1 months ago

Sorry to hear this, thanks.

William C
William C1 months ago

Terrible, thank you for caring.

Yulan Lawson
Yulan Lawson5 years ago

We need our butterlies. No butterflies, no food.
Isaac Bashevis Singer Nobel Peace Prize Winner wrote in his book, 'Enemies a love story', "As often has Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought. In their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazi’s. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplify the most extreme racist theories the principle that might is right. Lest we forget!

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Kasia Y.
Kasia Y.5 years ago

The size of cities and the populations they hold should be severely limited. I suggest that citize not be permitted to expand an in the next decade reduce the area by 10%. Immigration should be dramatically curtailed too. We all know this hurts the environment.

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti6 years ago

Continue to fight against pesticides and herbicides. Let's turn this around.

janine k.
janine k6 years ago

I maintain a large butterfly garden in NY. I have noticed a loss of the small white "cabbage" butterflies as we call them here. I planted thousands of (catmint) nepeta for them as they love it and have tons of buddleia (which grow like weeds). They fly in the french doors, they waft about the yard and oftentimes I see the chrysalis from them and the preying mantis. I NEVER spray and occasionally make a big stink about chemicals when I am at Home Depot. How they still sell them is beyond me. Butterflies have SCALES like fish and fly in pattern like bird and fish pattern about. Living in today's world KILLS me. Rarely do I get to speak to anybody who cares about the environment like I do and I am considered a "bother" for preserving what I can. WE ARE IN DIRE STRAIGHTS if something doesn't change. Take what little space you have and make butterfly gardens, feed birds appropriate food and NEVER SPRAY. Try to seed mussels and oysters if you have access to that sort of project. Install biologs for the absorption of floodwaters and maintainance of shorelines (like a project I did in Massapequa, LI). Drop the cell phone if you can, the bees hate them I hear (I dumped mine). Recycle, be a vegan/vegetarian. Do what you can, it will simplify your life whilst preserving it. If you can, go solar, go prius, go green. Or else what will you have that makes life beautiful?

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago


Pamela A.
Pamela A6 years ago

I had the extraordinary experience of actually observing the transformation of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Watching the butterfly coming out of its encasement was a once in a lifetime event for me.

I am glad the roadside where I collected the plants, which held the caterpillar, was a "no spray zone". I befriended the caterpillar and observed its change into a beautiful black swallowtail.

Observing nature may assist in expanding awareness that all life should be respected.

jan macek
jan macek6 years ago

Why are we surprised? Loss of habitat plus the use of pesticides is killing many creatures. Birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and in the end, humans.