1. ITV Report

Here is how you can get involved with the Big Butterfly Count and why it's important

The weather so far this year could mean a bumper year for butterflies. Photo: PA

The public are being encouraged to take part in the Big Butterfly Count over the next three weeks to help experts see how butterflies are faring, and to enjoy the mental health benefits of watching wildlife.

The UK has experienced the right combination of a cold winter and a settled late spring and summer so far this year, enabling spring butterflies to thrive.

The annual count could record a bumper year for species such as holly blue, common white, common blue and red admirals, but ongoing hot, dry conditions risk plants withering away.

This could cause the next generation of caterpillars to struggle to find the food they need to survive.

  • What you can do to help with the butterfly count
The information gathered could help protect butterflies in the future. Credit: PA

The Big Butterfly Count, organised by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation, asks people to spot and record 17 species of common butterflies and two day-flying moths during three weeks of high summer.

To take part, Butterfly Conservation ask that you simply count butterflies for 15 minutes during bright, and preferably sunny weather.

This is the time that most butterflies are at the adult stage of their life cycle - making them more likely to be spotted.

Butterfly Conservation president and veteran broadcaster Sir David Attenborough is also heavily encouraging people to take part in the count.

Participants can take records of butterflies from anywhere, from parks to fields and forests.

Butterfly Conservation have created a chart to help those taking part identify which butterflies they have seen.

People are asked to spot 17 common butterflies and two day-flying moths in the Big Butterfly Count. Credit: Butterfly Conservation/PA

Separate records can be taken from multiple dates at the same, or different locations if participants decide to take part more than once.

The Big Butterfly Count could help gather vital information that may help protect them in the future.

  • Why is it important?
Chequered skipper butterflies are being reintroduced to the UK after the species disappeared in 1976. Credit: PA

While the UK’s butterflies are basking in the best summer conditions in more than a decade, the hot weather could be "catastrophic" for butterflies if it becomes a drought.

If plants were to wither and caterpillars starve, it could cause a sharp decline in the insects - much like the 1976 drought where populations of butterflies collapsed.

More than three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies have declined in the last 40 years, with some common species, such as the small tortoiseshell, suffering significant slumps.

Sir David Attenborough is urging people to take part in the Big Butterfly Count. Credit: Butterfly Conservation/PA

Sir David, who is backing the efforts to preserve the butterfly population, said: "Although it's true to say that this has been a bumper season so far, the overall picture is actually that the population of butterflies are declining.

“A cause for great concern over recent years is that many of our once common and widespread species like the large white, small copper and gatekeeper have started to struggle, mirroring the declines of rarer species.

“Butterfly Conservation has also revealed that butterflies are declining faster in our towns and cities than in the countryside."

  • How could the Big Butterfly Count improve mental health conditions?
Spending time in nature can improve mental health issues. Credit: PA

Sir David Attenborough also believes that watching nature provides “precious breathing space” from the stress of modern life, adding that there are endless mental health benefits to spending time outside.

He has said that even watching garden wildlife from home can improve your mood.

“I have been privileged to have witnessed some truly breath-taking wildlife spectacles in far-flung locations but some of my most memorable experiences have happened when I’ve been simply sitting and watching the wildlife that lives where I do,” he said.

“A few precious moments spent watching a stunning red admiral or peacock butterfly feeding amongst the flowers in my garden never fails to bring me great pleasure.

“Spending time with nature offers us all precious breathing space away from the stresses and strains of modern life, it enables us to experience joy and wonder, to slow down and to appreciate the wildlife that lives side by side with us.”