Neonicotinoids linked to UK butterfly declines

Small Tortoiseshell
Small Tortoiseshell. Photo: Tim Melling

The use of neonicotinoid pesticides may be contributing to the decline of british butterflies a new study by the Universities of Stirling and Sussex in partnership with Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has revealed.

Previous studies have shown that these chemicals may be harming bees, birds and other wildlife but this is the first scientific evidence of a possible negative impact on widespread UK butterflies.

The chemicals remain in the environment and can be absorbed by the wildflowers growing in field margins, many of which provide a nectar source for butterflies and foodplants for their caterpillars. Researchers found population trends of 15 species showed declines associated with neonicotinoid use, including the Small Tortoiseshell, Small Skipper and Wall Brown butterfly, which can all be found here in Dorset.

Wall Brown

Wall Brown (female). Photo: Bob Eade

The study, published today in the journal PeerJ, is based on data gathered by volunteers from more than 1,000 sites across the UK as part of the long-running UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS).

Ecologist Dr Andre Gilburn of the University of Stirling, who led the study, said: “Our study not only identifies a worrying link between the use of neonicotinoids and declines in butterflies, but also suggests that the strength of their impact on many species could be huge.”

Dr Tom Brereton, Head of Monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said:

“We are extremely concerned with the findings of the study and are calling for urgent research…Widespread butterflies have declined by 58 per cent on farmland in England over the last 10 years giving concern for the general health of the countryside…”

In response to these alarming results, Butterfly Conservation has called on YOU to help carry out more detailed analysis so that together we can find specific proof that these chemicals are responsible, allowing us to persuade the Government to review their use.

Please spread the word to your friends and family and beyond and if possible, donate today to help make a difference and protect our countryside for generations to come so that they too can enjoy the beauty of butterflies.

To find out more about the study, read it in full here

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