Take part in annual Big Butterfly Count in Hertfordshire

A peacock butterfly.

European peacock butterfly. - Credit: Butterfly Conservation

Nature lovers in Hertfordshire are being encouraged to look out for butterflies.

Conservationists in Hertfordshire and north London are urging people to watch out for one of our most beautiful and colourful insects in a major citizen science project this month.

In its annual Big Butterfly Count, which starts on Friday, July 15, the local branch of Butterfly Conservation is keen to learn how the European peacock (scientific name Aglais io) is doing in the region.

Although many butterfly species are declining, and 2021 was a very poor year for most thanks to bad weather, peacocks seem to be thriving.

Last year, the Hertfordshire and Middlesex branch recorded a 40 per cent increase in peacocks compared to the average over the previous five years.

Branch chairman Malcolm Hull said: “Peacocks are one of the few butterflies which over-winter as adults. They can be found hibernating in cool dark places such as sheds, garages and lofts.  

"If you find one inside your house, it is best to carefully move it to a location which is not centrally heated. This should prevent it waking up in the middle of winter when food sources are scarce.

A peacock butterfly.

European peacock butterfly. - Credit: Butterfly Conservation

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"The peacock, curiously, is the only British butterfly which can make a noise! If a hibernating peacock butterfly is disturbed during its winter hibernation it will flash its wings – the eye spots look uncannily like those of a bird and are designed to scare potential predators such as a mouse. 

“To add to the scary effect, the butterfly can make a hissing noise which sounds just like an angry bird.”

The Big Butterfly Count is the largest citizen science project of its kind in the world, involving thousands of observers across Britain.

Malcolm added: “We need you to help us learn more about how butterflies are faring across the whole of the UK.

“The event runs from July 15 for three weeks and all you need to do is spend 15 minutes in a sunny spot and count the amount and type of butterflies you see. You can download the free Big Butterfly Count app now!”

Scientists use the results to work out ways of protecting butterflies and day-flying moths, and assess how they are affected by climate change, air pollution, and other environmental issues.

The Big Butterfly Count begins on Friday 15th July 2022 and will run until Sunday 7th August.

Anyone who wants to take part can learn more about it and download a useful app at  https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/about


Guided walk

Nature lovers have a chance to spot some of Britain’s most beautiful insects in a free guided tour of a nature reserve just outside Tring this month.

The Hertfordshire and Middlesex branch of Butterfly Conservation has organised a walk guided by experts around its Millhoppers Pasture Reserve on Sunday, July 31.

The walk, which will start at 10.30am at Wilstone Village Hall, will last about two hours, including a chance to see what insects have been caught in moth traps overnight.

The nature reserve supports a wide range of species of moths and butterflies, but anyone interested should book online at https://butterfly-conservation.org/ and Eventbrite.