Butterflies are well placed to act as indicators of the state of the environment as they have rapid lifecycles and are sensitive to environmental conditions. The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) was launched in 1976 with a mission to assess the status and trends of UK butterfly populations for conservation, research and quality of life. The UKBMS has transect sites located throughout the UK with data collected each week from April to September.
Prestwood Nature has taken part in the UKBMS since 2006. The Prestwood Nature transect is about 5km long and is separated into 15 sections with each section reflecting different habitats. The transect is walked by a team of volunteers who identify and count all the butterflies they see, following UKBMS methodology to ensure consistency, so that results are comparable from year to year. A detailed description and map of the transect are provided here.
The most noteworthy aspect of 2022 that has a potential impact on butterflies has been the extended drought we have experienced. On the whole, high temperatures with lots of sunshine provide perfect conditions for butterflies. The problem for butterflies is that their caterpillars need fresh green plants on which to feed. If the plants have withered due to drought, then the caterpillars will starve which has an impact on the next generation of butterflies. So, although numbers have been reasonably buoyant this year, there may be knock on effects into next year.
In total, 2368 butterflies were recorded on the transect in 2022. This compares to an average of 2174 butterflies per year in the last 10 years. Twenty-five different species were recorded.
Since the Prestwood Nature transect first began in 2006, over 30 species of butterfly have been recorded, some of which are shown in the photo gallery below. In 2022, the most common species of butterfly recorded was the Meadow Brown, followed by the Ringlet, Marbled White, Gatekeeper and Common Blue.