UK BUTTERFLIES suffered their fourth worst year on record in 2016 with the majority of species experiencing a decline in numbers, a study has revealed.

The annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, led by Butterfly Conservation, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, British Trust for Ornithology and Joint Nature Conservation Committee, revealed that some 40 of the 57 species studied recorded a decline compared with 2015,

Research suggests that the UK’s increasingly mild winters are having a negative effect on butterflies as they may lead to increased disease, predation or disruption of overwintering behaviour. Cold springs can also cause problems for butterflies by reducing or delaying emergence leading to shortened lifespans.

Head of monitoring at butterfly conservation, Professor Tom Brereton, said: “Worryingly, not even the pleasant summer weather of 2016 was enough to help butterflies bounce back from a run of poor years.

“The results show that butterflies are failing to cope with our changing climate and how we manage the environment. As butterflies are regarded as good indicators of environmental health this is hugely concerning for both wildlife and people.”

Butterfly ecologist at the centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Dr Marc Botham, added: “The weather at critical times of species development can cause dramatic changes in population numbers in the short term. What is of greatest concern is the regularity with which these short-term changes in recent years are negative, resulting in significant long-term declines for many species.

“Furthermore, this is becoming more and more commonplace for many of our most widespread and abundant species equating to large reductions in overall butterfly numbers with knock-on effects to their ecosystems.”

Monitoring ecologist at the JNCC. Anna Robinson, said: “We are really grateful to the thousands of volunteers who get involved in monitoring the UK’s butterflies.

“The evidence provided by the UKBMS is of great importance in showing the need for conservation action to improve the situation.”