Butterfly experts aflutter at early sighting of threatened species in Surrey

Surrey is leading the way in this year's emergence of a rare spring butterfly.

According to the charity Butterfly Conservation, which is dedicated to halting the rapid decline of butterflies and moths, and protecting the environment, the threatened Wood White first emerged in the county in early April.

The charity recorded the Wood White appearing three weeks earlier than its emergence date of last year.

The early sighting is one of many which have seen the UK's rare spring butterflies found in the South-east, emerge weeks earlier than last year.

The charity said the early start is down to the recent mild weather.

Among the region's other sightings, the rare Duke of Burgundy was seen in Hampshire three weeks early too, as were the Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, which were spotted in Sussex.

Butterfly Conservation said the endangered Glanville Fritillary emerged on the Isle of Wight on April 29 – four weeks earlier than in 2013.

The charity said the sightings are a far cry from last year, when the delayed butterfly emergence was due to the coldest start to spring for half a century.

However, it added, that when looking at the ten-year emergence date mean for the years 2002 to 2010, many species are still appearing earlier than before.

In Hampshire, the Small Blue emerged around two weeks earlier than the ten-year average, while the Green-veined White appeared in Oxfordshire around a week earlier than normal.

Butterfly Conservation surveys manager, Richard Fox, said: “Over the longer term, many butterfly species have shifted their emergence to earlier in the year in response to climate change.”

He said: “Our first encounter with a favourite butterfly species each year is a special moment to treasure, but these sightings are also important indicators of how our native wildlife is responding to changes in the environment.”

Butterfly Conservation has launched the free iRecord Butterflies app, which allows users to submit their butterfly sightings and photos to form part of Butterfly Conservation’s long-running national recording scheme. The results will then be used by scientists to determine how species are faring.

More than 4,000 sightings of 29 different butterfly species have already been logged through the new app since it was launched in April.

The iRecord Butterflies app is available for iPhone from iTunes and for android devices via the Google Play Store Butterfly Conservation runs conservation programmes for more than 100 threatened species, and manages more than 30 nature reserves. Website: www.butterfly-conservation.org

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