A Red Admiral butterfly with its wings spread out sitting on a purple flower. The wings are black with orange lines and white dots,

Red Admiral surges to surprise Big Butterfly Count lead

As the Big Butterfly Count nears the end of its final week, the Red Admiral has fluttered into the lead with a huge increase.

There have been 186,956 sightings of the familiar visitor reported so far, up 400% on the same period last year, according to wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation.

The rapid increase has led scientists to believe the migrant species is now overwintering in the UK, particularly in the south of England.

Dr Zoë Randle, senior surveys officer at Butterfly Conservation, said: “We’ve been surprised to see the Red Admiral taking the lead, however with the increased frequency of warm weather, the UK may well become a permanent home for this species.” 

The Red Admiral traditionally starts life in North Africa and Continental Europe.

Throughout spring and early summer they migrate north where the females lay eggs, meaning there is an emergence of fresh butterflies from July onwards.

With temperatures rising, the Red Admiral’s need to return to its southerly winter habitat is reducing, so it is likely a greater number of the species are spending the winter in the UK.

Dr Randle added: “The results so far show just how vital the Big Butterfly Count is.

“We couldn’t get the depth and breadth of data we’re collecting without the help of the general public.

“We’re calling on people across the UK to please get out for the count and record your butterfly sightings over the next few days.

“With climate change here to stay, we need people to take part more than ever before and help us understand how extreme weather is affecting our butterflies.”

The Big Butterfly Count began on 14 July and ends this Sunday, 6 August. 

So far, there have been more than one million butterflies and day-flying moths recorded. 

For more information and to take part visit or download the free Big Butterfly Count app.

Featured image credit: Mark Searle, Butterfly Conservation

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