The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s biggest survey of butterflies, launched in 2010 to track and protect these colourful creatures! Butterflies are essential to our ecosystem, pollinating plants and playing an important part in the food chain. However, they are under threat and are decreasing in numbers. In addition to our exciting summer programme of art workshops, we’re also making time to look after the environment. Giving just 15 minutes of your time to count butterflies will gather vital data that could help to keep butterflies safe.
The count runs from Friday the 16th July until Saturday the 8th of August, and you can submit records at any time throughout this period. The process is easy: simply download the Big Butterfly Count app, choose a spot to sit and observe for 15 minutes, and record any butterflies that you see. There is also a FREE DOWNLOADABLE chart showing you how to identify different butterflies – which will look lovely on your wall. You can take part as many times as you like, and remember that unsuccessful counts (where no butterflies are seen) are still important and should be submitted!
Butterflies have really suffered this year, due to the chilly weather in April, followed by the wettest May for 50 years. The UK has 59 species of butterflies – a vibrant, diverse community that none of us want to lose. They are also a key indicator of biodiversity, so protecting butterflies means protecting a whole lot of other plants and animals, too.
There are several butterflies that are found in higher numbers in Birmingham, so make sure you look out for them while taking your count! Here are just a few examples from the West Midlands Butterfly Conservation Website!
One species is the Dingy Skipper, which is unfortunately becoming rare. In addition to its funny name, it has grey-brown wings with brown markings and small white spots. It loves to bask on the bare ground with spread wings to soak up the sunshine, so it probably loved our July heat wave! It’s very well camouflaged, so if you manage to spot this butterfly, give yourself a big pat on the back.
Another species that can be found in Birmingham is the Wood White, a small butterfly with a slow flight. It is often found in sheltered places like woodland glades, and has rounded, white wings with subtle grey markings. During their courtship ritual, the male butterfly lands opposite the female and waves his head and antennae backwards and forwards!
Art at the Heart's Commitment to Sustainability
As a community arts organisation based in Birmingham, we are currently working on our Sustainability Action Plan. An important part of this is encouraging biodiversity at Art at the Heart’s studio grounds. We have planted lots of bee and butterfly-friendly plants, to help with the reduced butterfly count this year including alliums, lavender and mallow. Even the smallest site can offer refuge to wildlife, including pots and window boxes. Look out for art kits with free seeds coming soon.
A top tip from our Director Nirmala Suman-Chauhan is not to forget about caterpillar food plants, because after all, we wouldn’t have butterflies without caterpillars! Nettles are great caterpillar food, so why not let a patch of your garden go wild? For more ideas and resources on encouraging biodiversity (including how to build a pond and make a bee hotel) see the Wildlife Trust website.
Visit the Big Butterfly Count website for more information, including how to sign up. And if you’re looking for more summer inspiration and ideas, check out out our programme of events and workshops – many of which focus on the natural world!