The Big Butterfly Count

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Dear Readers, the temperature is due to get into the 90’s today, and so I decided it was a good morning to do the Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation. This year, you can do as many counts as you like, and so I thought I’d maybe do a few between now and the 9th August when it finishes. Sadly the buddleia at the front has pretty much gone over, but the hemp agrimony at the backΒ  is still pulling them in. As usual, as soon as I was all set up with my app loaded and my chart at the ready, all the butterflies went on strike. Where were the clouds of holly blues from yesterday? Where were the peacocks and the red admirals? Well, actually I suspected that the big colourful butterflies were all looking for buddleia elsewhere, because in spite of the popularity of my hemp agrimony with all the little butterflies and bees, the big ones don’t seem to like it.

Holly blue (Celastrina argiolus). On strike today.

However, there was one moment of great excitement. There was a flash of deep copper-orange, and this amazing moth landed in the lilac.

Jersey tiger (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

I love the delta wings (which remind me of my favourite V-bomber, the Vulcan), and the absolute nonchalance with which it flies – presumably the orange colour is a warning to birds that it is unpleasant to eat.

Photo One by By AJC1 from UK - Jersey Tiger Moth, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Photo One

This is actually the second or third Jersey tiger that I’ve seen in the garden during the last few days, and I am wondering if my huge stands of hemp agrimony are actually being used by the caterpillars. How exciting would that be! As the name suggests, the Jersey tiger came originally from the Channel Islands, and the first time I saw one it was in parents’ Dorset garden. A friend saw one in North London earlier this year, and now they seem to be everywhere. The caterpillars can apparently be spotted from September onwards, and the tiny caterpillars overwinter amongst their foodplants, so maybe I won’t cut back my plants this year just in case. They also like all kinds of ‘weeds’, such as nettles, ground ivy and dandelion, so keep an eye open, London folks!

Photo Two from

Jersey tiger caterpillar (Photo Two)

Now, here’s a question for you. When you’re thinking about the weather, do you think in Centigrade or Fahrenheit? All the ‘young’ people in my team at work think it’s hilarious when I tell them that ‘it’s going to be in the 90’s on Monday’ and ask me what the ‘real temperature’ is. Hah!Β  Is it just an age thing? I’m old enough to remember pre-decimalisation (which was in 1971) but I don’t remember ever being told that we had to think in Centigrade. Or maybe it just passed me by. Anyway, it is a constant reminder that I am about 25 years older than the next oldest person in my team (that and not being eager to return to the office because, pandemic).

Anyhow, I also wanted to give you a heads-up about my latest garden experiment. Whenever I go to tropical butterfly houses, I see fermenting bananas left about, and the butterflies seem to love them. So, I have stuck an ageing banana on the bird table (opened of course) and I shall being keep an eye open to see who turns up. I suspect that it might be more attractive to moths because of their well-developed sense of smell, and I’m hoping that wasps are still concentrating on protein rather than sugar at the moment, otherwise things could get very interesting. I shall keep you posted, readers, but in the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for my next butterfly count – let’s hope that I find more than the three large whites and five gatekeepers that I saw this time.

Photo Three from

Butterflies on banana (Photo Three)

Photo Credits

Photo One By AJC1 from UK – Jersey Tiger Moth, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Photo Two from

Photo Three from

7 thoughts on “The Big Butterfly Count

  1. Anne

    Decimal everything made a lot more sense to me when we changed over. I remember helping my mother explain to the farm workers over and again that they were not being diddled with their wages – changing from pounds, shillings and pence to rands and cents did not sit well with them at first. Distances and temperatures followed next and we soon absorbed them. So many of my old recipes refer to lbs and oz that I frequently having to convert – my children wouldn’t know where to begin!

    1. Bug Woman

      Hah! I remember decimalisation (1971) and how everyone thought the prices would go up, which indeed they did because everyone rounded their prices up ;-). What I struggle with is US cookbooks which have all their measurements by volume rather than weight. It’s normally not a big problem, but it can play havoc when I’m baking and need some precision. Funnily enough, though, even the cakes and bread that I categorise as disasters get wolfed down by my husband πŸ™‚

  2. FEARN

    We still get our milk in pint bottles, and beer too, but petrol pricing has definitely done for the gallon. I do have an old school watering can still. Scotland has a shorter butterfly season and less of them. My count resulted in a flat zero. We have got lots of bees in our garden though. I will be interested in your banana experiment. Don’t think the fox would be interested in that.

    1. Bug Woman

      So far there’s no interest in the banana at all, but I did read that the red admirals and peacocks might pay more attention in the autumn, as they’ll need all the food they can get to help them through hibernation. It’ll have to be a different banana though πŸ˜‰

  3. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    I don’t think I could tell you what the temperature is in Fahrenheit any more. I recall 72 being quite warm and 90 sounds a lot. We have 30 degrees today (which I’ve just looked up is 86 degrees F), but it’ll be 37 in the Rhone valley in Sion (which is 98.6 F). As you might guess I’m quite used to metres now too and find myself constantly looking up the equivalent in feet for those who haven’t ‘moved on’ shall we say! πŸ˜‰ I had a wander up our little road the other day. The butterflies have lost most of their meadow flowers (due to the farmers cutting them for hay) so there are quite a few flitting about by the untouched roadside. I typically find and usually photograph 8 to 10 different sorts within an hour or so and that’s not counting the 2 or 3 that get away unidentified. I have a ‘store’ of pictures which I hope to post when things go quiet on my blog. 😊


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