- Warm summer sees number of butterflies increase in Britain
- Sightings of moths, bees, crickets and grasshoppers also increased
- Orchids, snowdrops and bluebells also ‘grew’ during 2013
19:48 EST, 26 December 2013
09:27 EST, 27 December 2013
After six disappointingly damp years, 2013 finally saw the return of the Great British Summer.
As we celebrated those long, hot days of July and August, the country’s wildlife was thriving too.
And no species took more advantage of the balmy weather than the butterfly – the real wildlife winner of the year.
natures winners and losers in 2013
Sightings increased by an average of 80 per cent during the summer’s three official counts. Matthew Oates, a wildlife specialist at the National Trust, said: ‘It has been a fantastic year for butterflies.
‘They are one of nature’s true opportunists and they will exploit good weather ferociously.’
The cabbage white was one species that did particularly well, and conservationists were excited to see the rare long-tailed blue nesting in Kent. The extended period of warm and dry weather also saw a boom in moths, bees, crickets and grasshoppers, despite the cold, late spring.
The tree bumblebee, which spread to the UK from Europe in 2001, expanded considerably – crossing north of Hadrian’s Wall for the first time.
Conditions were perfect for plants like orchids, which flowered successfully in the meadows of southern England and Wales. The cool spring provided a long flowering season for early bloomers such as snowdrops, primroses and bluebells.
Fluttering upwards: There was an increase in sightings of the cabbage white butterfly, pictured, as well as the long-tail blue
Later in the year, there was an explosion of berries, nuts and seeds, particularly mistletoe, followed by huge numbers of mushroom varieties. However, the cold, late spring meant food was in short supply for migrant birds such as swallows and martins.
It was one of the worst years on record for barn owls, with less than 1,000 breeding pairs compared with the usual 4,000. And lack of nourishment hit breeding frogs and toads and mammals coming out of hibernation.
A slug population decimated by a triple whammy of a cold winter, long spring and hot summer was good news for gardeners, who faced an infestation of the pests last year. But it also cut the number of aphids, which are an important food source for seven-spot ladybirds, hoverflies and birds like tits that feed on them.
However, Mr Oates said 2013 was still ‘one of the most remarkable wildlife years in living memory’, with more winners than losers.
‘The way our butterflies and other sun-loving insects bounced back in July was utterly amazing, showing nature’s powers of recovery at their best,’ he said. ‘Great wildlife experiences make special places extra special. Best of all, this year has set up 2014 very nicely.’