British Butterfly Decline

Yet another report is raising alarm over the decline of butterfly species in Britain:

"'Final warning' decline in butterflies raises fears over pesticides" 


This follows on from reports earlier in the year regarding butterfly declines in both the USA and UK.

The recently released figures are alarming:

  • Comma butterfly numbers fell 46% vs 2015
  • Gatekeepers - down 40% vs 2015
  • Small coppers - down by 30% vs 2015
  • Small tortoiseshell - 47% drop vs 2015
  • Peacock butterflies down 42% vs 2015

Butterfly Conservation commented:

"Perhaps the very mild winter had a negative effect, or the cold spring, or perhaps the impacts of intensive farming and pesticides are really hitting these common species now."

It could of course, be a combination of these things.  I do wonder, however, how numbers might stack up in varied climates if we had no neonicotinoids, for example, and if more farmers embraced wildlife friendly farming practices. 

Some farmers are indeed doing just this, as can be seen from this fabulous image of a pollinator margin  (the photograph - taken in autumn - does not do the pollinator margin justice - it was huge and diverse, obviously created by a farmer keen to do his bit! :))

Pollinator margin on the edge of a Norfolk field, England

However, it has to be said, that there should be no surprises if pesticides like neonicotinoids are adversely affecting butterfly populations.  I have already covered this issue when examining patents for products containing neonicotinoids on my page regarding effects on non-target insects.  The patents clearly state that the product can be used to control Lepidoptera (this includes butterflies and moths) but this data is not taken into account during the product registration process.  I think it's high time it was.

I think you have to be very gullible indeed to assume that only 'pest' moths and butterflies would be affected by neonicotinoids, and not the 'non-pest' species.

I don't think we can rely on the integrity of pesticide manufacturers.  For example, in my opinion, they have a pretty warped view, when they state that our agricutural systems have created more habitat suitable for pollinators.  At around the same time they were spouting this nonsence, Butterfly Conservation were stating in their 2007 report:

"Monitoring data show that agri-environment schemes have failed to halt the general decline of butterflies on farmland in England: there had been a significant decline (30% over the last 10 years) in mean abundance of 40 butterfly species assessed.”

The fact that the EU quite recently approved 2 next-generation neonicotinoids in the space of 3 months, makes these recent reports  more alarming and depressing.

What can you do?

I have previously composed many letters for readers to copy and email to politicians, but my suggestion is that you write your own letter, if necessary, using information copied and pasted from the pages on the links above.

As a reminder, there are relevant snippets of information on these pages:

Neonicotinoids and non-target insects

Agri-industry (Crop Protection Association) view of pollinators

Recent feature on neonics and butterflies.

Is it worth it?  Yes, I think it is!  Now is the time when it's more important than ever, to put pressure on politicians to create change.  In the UK, we have a new DEFRA secretary, Andrea Leadsom.  If the EU will not ban these dreadful insecticides, why not pile on the pressure to make our UK government ban them instead?