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Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Tops Poll


11th September 2019

Last Updated: 30th March 2020

More than a million butterflies were counted and logged by the 113,502 big butterfly count participants this summer. The full results have just been released, and the Painted Lady has come out on top!

The mass migration of Painted Ladies saw this butterfly rise up the ranks to become the most seen species of this year’s count. The iconic Peacock butterfly also had a good year, securing a solid second place.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good news for the UK’s blue butterflies, with sightings of the Common and Holly Blue both down on last year.

2019 was the biggest year yet with more than 100,000 counts for the first time in its ten year history. That equates to 29,000 hours of enjoying our native butterflies and moths, relaxing from the stresses of modern life and gathering useful data both to assess and protect nature. In the 10 years of the big butterfly count so far, 522,000 counts have taken place, logging 6.2 million butterflies and moths.

An astonishing 1.6 million individuals of the 19 target species (17 butterflies & 2 day-flying moths) were counted from the 19th July to the 11th August. Generally, people saw more butterflies than last year, on average recording more than 16 individuals of the target species per 15 minute count, the second highest average since the Big Butterfly Count began in 2010, and well about the eleven per count seen in 2018. Even if the abundant Painted Ladies are excluded from the count people still saw more butterflies per count compared to the previous year, although not by much.  This suggests that with a few notable exceptions, the Summer of 2019 was not exceptional for the UK’s common butterflies.

Not only did the Painted Lady come out as the most counted butterfly it was also the most numerous species recorded in each of the four countries, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  Its previous best performance was 13th in 2018 and typically it is one of the least frequently seen of the 19 target species.  Approximately 420,000 Painted Ladies were counted, making up over one quarter of all the butterflies in the 2019 event and more than twice as many as the next most abundant species, the Peacock.

Britain’s Buddleia bushes welcomed much better numbers of colourful butterflies during the summer of 2019.  The Peacock enjoyed its best summer since 2014, coming second overall and with numbers up 235% on last year’s count. The Red Admiral bounced back strongly after a disappointing 2018, with an increase in number by 138%.  Even the Small Tortoiseshell, which has lost three-quarters of its UK population since the 1970s, fared (relatively) well.  It had its best result since 2014 and numbers were up 167% on 2018. Other winners, compared with the 2018 count, included the Marbled White (↑264%), Gatekeeper (↑95%), Meadow Brown (↑87%) and Six-Spot burnet (↑64%).

For further or more detailed information please visit the big butterfly count website.

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