Bug expert ‘concerned’ by lack of butterflies spotted in Nottingham

Video: Bug experts discuss the fall in the number of butterflies spotted in Nottingham. 

A bug expert says he is ‘concerned’ because there has been a decline in the number of butterflies spotted in Nottingham this summer.

Christopher Terrel Nield, a lecturer in bio-science at Nottingham Trent University, says there has been a drop in the number of inspects spotted in city conservation areas – particularly in the Arboretum.

He says people commonly assume that planting flowering plants will attract butterflies.

But he says this is a misconception and butterflies are mainly attracted to weeds and stinging nettles which their offspring, which develop from eggs into caterpillars, called Larva, feed on.

He said: “It’s [the decline] down to a number of different factors – the first one is butterflies are very sensitive to environmental change.

“They don’t like uncertainty like most people don’t like uncertainty.

“People say we should plant lots and lots of flowering plants. Actually what you need for butterflies are the really rather boring weeds, things like stinging nettles that the Larva eat.

“You need a wild patch, a mixture. The whole point of encouraging bio-diversity is to have the maximum amount of mixture.”

A wildlife conservationist says experts, including veteran wildlife broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, have said butterflies could become extinct in the future.

Bill Bacon, chairman of the East Midlands Butterfly Conservation, said: “People, exemplified by Sir David Attenborough, are pointing to a possible global mass extinction which could be equivalent to the one caused by the giant asteroid Yucatan all those millions of years ago.”

He called on people from Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to take part in a national survey to count the number of butterflies in the UK to find out if there has been a significant fall in the number of butterflies spotted last year compared to this year.

The Big Butterfly Count launched last Friday (July 14) and runs until Sunday, August 6.

It started in 2010 and people are advised to count the number of butterflies they can spot in gardens, fields and woodlands for around 15 minutes – and the findings can be submitted online.

Last year around 36,000 people took part and around 400,000 individual butterflies were counted.

Bill Bacon said: “The Big Butterfly Count is an opportunity for anyone to become involved. It is the largest butterfly conservation observation project in the world.

“It goes on until the end of the first week in August. We’ve got three weeks. The idea is that anyone can sit in the corner of a field, or a garden or woodland and watch what butterflies they see just for 15 minutes.

“It’s as simple as that and there are instructions how to submit this online.”

Speaking while searching for butterflies in the Arboretum, he added: “One of the reasons why we can see them [butterflies] here is we have this wonderful buddleia bush with purple spikes, sometimes known as the ‘butterfly bush’.

“This is very rich in nectar and is particularly attractive to butterflies during the late summer and early autumn.

“Here we have seen this morning Red Admirals, Meadow Browns and Small Whites.”