Butterfly surveys

Butterfly surveys are often part of the requirement for a programme of entomological work on a site. With falling populations, it’s important to establish what level of activity there is.

Simple measures can be put in place to maintain and nurture the habitat of butterflies, which in turn, can enhance the attractiveness of your site.

Expert ecologists, we’re able to carry out butterfly surveys for you. We’ll then help to form a plan that naturally balances the protection of these important insect species, whilst meeting your development needs.

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When are butterfly surveys carried out?

It’s far easier to accurately identify butterflies in their adult stage. Therefore, we tend to recommend that surveying is undertaken twice annually: initially during mid-May to early June, then again during late July to August. This method tends to accommodate most varieties, some of which emerge early in the year, others later.


How do you carry out butterfly surveys?

The UK’s Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (BMS) lays out the standard method for surveying butterflies on a site. The surveyor will count the numbers of each species of butterfly seen 2.5 metres either side, and 5 metres in front. They’ll walk at a steady pace in weather that’s suitable for butterfly activity.

By using a standard method, changes in population can become evident over time.

The key purpose of the survey is to understand the overall ecology and conservation value of the site, regarding butterfly habitat. It’s then possible to identify the most important features to protect, or the most appropriate mitigation required.

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What advice do you provide after the survey is complete?

We’ll work closely with you after the butterfly surveys. Dependent on your plans for site development, we’ll identify if specific habitat areas should be preserved. Alternatively, we’ll be able to advise on suitable planting schemes and mitigation work that will support the butterfly population adequately.

The timing of any work might also need consideration, so as not to damage breeding habitat at important times.

By taking an overall approach from the outset, you’ll be able to effectively manage your development to harmonise with any ecological needs, appeasing the planning department and enriching your site with an array of wildlife.

Why are butterfly populations falling?

The issue of falling insect populations is complex. None more so than butterflies. Factors such as agricultural intensification, the use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, habitat degradation and habitat loss are all at play here.

Whilst many of the most threatened insect populations are now confined to protected sites, the overwhelming majority must complete their life-cycles away from the protection of ‘honeypot’ nature reserves.

The importance of brownfield sites for many insect species is becoming increasingly known. Land on former industrial sites slowly return to nature and is not subject to agri-chemicals. It often has infertile soils suitable for uncommon plants, and therefore uncommon insects associated with the plants.

Many insects, including butterflies, have specific habitat requirements. They’re often dependent on the presence of precise species of grasses, flowering plants, trees, soil-types, wet, dry or intermediate habitats, light-levels, temperature fluctuations, levels of disturbance, dead wood and fungi. And the relationships between just some of these factors can be complex at any given site; changing in a short distance, or over a short space of time.

It’s an extremely challenging ecological situation for butterflies to thrive in.