A Dorset based wildlife charity has announced the dates for their annual citizen science programme.

The Butterfly Conservation, based in Lulworth Dorset, have announced the dates for their Big Butterfly Count.

Last year more than 135,000 counts took place up and down the country, with participants spending a combined total of almost four years counting butterflies.

This year's count will take place between Friday, July 12 to Sunday, August 4.

People will then spend 15 minutes counting butterflies in the area to help inform conservation action.

Dr Zoë Randle, senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation said: “We need as many people as possible to take part in this year’s Big Butterfly Count to help us see what’s happening with our butterflies and moths. 

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Dr Zoë Randle, Senior Surveys Officer at Butterfly Conservation“We’re getting reports that although many species have been seen early this year, likely due to the very warm early spring, sightings are actually down, which is probably a result of the very wet and windy weather. So people getting out and counting will be invaluable in helping us to gauge what’s going on.”

Butterflies are seen as indicators of a healthy natural environment, and the organisers behind the programme say that there has never been a more important time to understand how insects are responding to climate change as they say that half of the country’s butterfly species are threatened or near threatened with extinction.

The count is the largest ‘citizen science’ project of its kind, with the charity revealing scientific evidence that shows that counting butterflies reduces anxiety by almost 10 per cent.

Open to anyone, of any age, in any part of the UK, the charity is looking for people to conduct counts from a back garden, a small terrace or balcony with some pot plants, to a public park, allotment or country lane.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

The information gathered helps scientists to understand how butterflies and moths are faring, informs conservation projects, government policies and supports other experts with their research and vital work to protect our planet.

Dr Randle added: ‘In total, over 1.5 million butterflies and day-flying moths were recorded in last year’s Count, with the Red Admiral reigning supreme with almost 250,000 sightings. This was the first time this iconic species hit the top spot and we’re curious to see whether the warmer winter will enable it to keep its number one position or whether another species will come out on top this year.’

For more information on the count or to take part, visit www.bigbutterflycount.org or download the free Big Butterfly Count app.