Welcome to the Yorkshire Branch of Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies are not only beautiful and fascinating creatures but are also highly responsive to the environment. David Attenborough described them as 'A thermometer of the health of our natural world' Almost every species of butterfly is in decline and a quarter are facing extinction. We have lost more than 97% of our traditional meadows and woodland in recent times so it is crucial we raise awareness about the threats facing our butterflies, moths, their habitats and our natural environment. Yorkshire Branch work in partnership with land owners, local authorities, conservation bodies, businesses and the local community to achieve this.

Here in Yorkshire the Duke of Burgundy and Pearl Bordered Fritillary are particularly vulnerable due to habitat loss and increasingly susceptible to extinction. Yorkshire also has the only remaining colony of the Dark Bordered Beauty Moth in England, on Strensall Common and is on the brink of extinction.

Become a member today and help us save butterflies, moths and their habitats. There are many rewarding roles volunteering in recording and conservation just take a look at our Branch leaflet HERE . We have a real challenge when 60% of children in the UK have never seen a Peacock butterfly according to a YouGov Survey and 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature. Founded in 1981 Yorkshire branch wil be 40 years old this year and has more than 1800 members.

Calling all butterfly recorders: The DECIDE Project needs your help

PLEASE Give it a go: Send feedback: Lets improve the next version together

This interesting citizen science project is developing a tool for recorders to use to find out where biological records are needed most to improve species distribution models. In turn this will enable data users such as land managers, planners and policy makers to make better decisions. The tool has been co-created with the recording community. The DECIDE team would really appreciate it if you give your feedback. Try it out : https://decide.ceh.ac.uk/info/decide_info as they develop it further.

The map opposite is a typical screen grab of what it displays . Areas where the model is least confident and there are few records are shown as yellow shading while areas where it is more certain are shown as blue. As you can see in this area of NE Leeds quite a number of areas have been highlighted deep yellow. If you press 'Get suggestions' it drops markers . In choosing these locations it also take account public access and footpaths which are also displayed as we don't want you to trespass! If you click a marker it gives you info about habitats at that location and the models prediction. Although some points might be just another cornfield others are uncertain and all can help remove uncertainty.

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Grasslands+ Campaign The global climate conference COP26 takes place in Glasgow in November. It’s the last chance for governments of the world to agree on a path that will turn back disastrous climate change, restore natural habitats and protect biodiversity. BC has joined forces with Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Plantlife to form the Grasslands+ coalition to tell politicians that grasslands hold the key to the future of our planet. The Grasslands+ is calling for international protections for our planet’s grasslands, savannas, plains, heaths, steppes and meadows to help mitigate the impact of climate change and increase biodiversity. The UK government, the EU and other world leaders must commit to restoring, enhancing and protecting these habitats at Cop26 in Glasgow. We’re asking you to make your voice heard by writing to your MP. Click here to take action...

Hedgerows are the unsung heroes of our countryside. They are icons of our landscape, steeped in history, providing a haven for wildlife while absorbing carbon emissions. The hedgerow network, in its expanse, is our largest ‘nature reserve’. Butterfly Conservation is supporting the 40 by 50 campaign from the Countryside Charity to achieve a 40% increase in our hedgerows by 2050 to support nature restoration and climate change efforts. Find out more HERE and join the campaign.


13th October Brockadale Planning Update North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) after a delay due to irregularities which prompted a site visit have now grant conditional planning permission for the development of teh quarry extension to extract a further 5 million tonnes of Magnesian Limestone subject to the Quarry owners first entering into a legal agreement with the County Council to extend the restoration aftercare period, establish a community liaison committee and restoration steering group and control the routing of HGV’s to the A1.

October 8th Update on the Big Butterfly Count 2021 : BC have published an overview of the Big Butterfly Count HERE which shows despite record participation in this very popular citizen science project individual insect count per record were the lowest recorded in its 12 year history. The average count in 2021 was down to 9 while in 2020 it was 11 and 2019 16. It discusses how much of this was due to weather in the recording period, and of course the diabolic effects of this year cold wet spring compared to recent warm dry springs of 2018-20. The very weak Jetstream this year has a lot to answer for but will it continue? The overwhelming effects were on double brooded species which will likely take a further year to recover. Highlights were Small Tortoiseshell remains poor although we buck this trend in Yorkshire with a boom. Red Admiral had a good year in the south but Peacock had its worst year since 2012 and this certainly true in Yorkshire. The 3 week time slot of BBC and the delay in the second broods are really the take away story with some of grassland species actually having a good year and some species enjoying the damp.

Peacock well down in this year's Big Butterfly Count

6th October Our Science Spotlight looks at a fascinating and ground breaking article at how prevalent moths species are in giving an ultrasonic response to echolocating bat attack? They discover that responses occur in a broad range of moth families and 20% of species. Ultrasound is produced in new ways and with new organs throughout the moth anatomy with some hawk species using their genitals as a rear firing bat radar blocking ultrasound. They discover new and likely yet to be discovered reasons not only to block, avoid or interfere with bat radar but also in mimicking poisonous species. Some species show communication by ultrasound between males and females...often very quietly, to avoid predation. This original piece of work shows some moths respond to touch as they are caught in the deadly embrace of a bat.. This 10 year study creates almost a whole new field of research by leaving so many questions unanswered about its discoveries . More BELOW

September highlights : A very warm month but numbers still lag

Photo of the month By Chris Cox

The season has ended suddenly with numbers tumbling on our transect walks in the last week of the month, despite the good weather. The only significant nectar presently is Ivy , however our gardens are oasis with Sedums and Michaelmas Daisy drawing in Red Admiral and sometimes Comma. September temperatures have been well over average by near 3'C after the mid month mini heatwave hitting 27'C and more September records being broken! It has been quite sunny as well as dry but counts on our transects have often been single figures from mid month and rather disappointing overall. However, the Whites did have a better month and numbers have recovered well in the second generation. The Small Tortoiseshell boom continues and have often been the most abundant species in our gardens along with Small White. The main beneficiary of August damp has been Speckled Wood on its third generation reflecting the lush grass growth throughout August with counts on woodland transects having been large. It has earned its place as Butterfly of the month. There has been a small peak with the second generation Comma later in the month while Peacock has been mostly disappointing. A third generation of Small Copper was also evident in the middle of the month. Good numbers of migrant moths have been seen in the middle of the month. Quite a few moth traps yielded the rare migrant Clifdon NonPariel (Blue Underwing) and even Stripped Hawk Moth plus a Camberwell Beauty was spotted at Scarborough Mere. This is the last update of 2021 and we would like to thank all of you for your contributions with 300 records in September and 3000 so far this season. We ask our transect walkers to complete entering their data so we can bring you a timely analysis of 2021 soon. Please do keep entering your sightings.

Introducing our New Publications

The 2020 Annual Report is now available to members and your password will be emailed

The Yorkshire Branch Leaflet gives you an introduction to the work of the branch, the resources we can offer online and in print.

Yorkshire Branch Butterfly Conservation.pdf

The Yorkshire ID Pocket Guide is perfect to slip in your pocket when you out and about. Mail ann.davis@yorkshirebutterflies.org.uk for your printed copy

Butterfly_Yorkshire_Book_V2[1] (1).pdf

Science Spotlight : Anti-Bat Ultrasound Production in Moths

JR Barber, D Plotkin, JJ Rubin, NT Homziak, BC Leavell, P Houlihan, KA Miner, JW Breinholt, B Quirk-Royal, PS Padrón, M Nunez, AY Kawahara published 1/10 2021 and released HERE

This fascinating and fine detailed article looks in depth at how prevalent moths are in giving ultrasonic response to echolocating bat attack? This study trapped moths with UV lights and broadcast pre-recorded bat sonar attack sequences to moths in tethered flight, across the world’s tropics. The study played representative calls from bat species of both frequency-modulated and constant-frequency bats calls . We recorded moth responses to playback of sonar attack and found that 52 of 252 tested genera respond acoustically to both types of bat sonar. Far more than was known before where most studies looked at Tiger and Hawk Moths with their known reponse. The study reports that this striking anti-predator behavior is widespread across the tapestry of lepidopteran diversity (Fig 2). In fact, if we extrapolate from our sample, ∼20% of the estimated 100,000 species. In addition to playback of bat attack, we also queried moths for ultrasonic response to handling. We simulated a physical predatory attack by grasping the thorax, abdomen, and head. Nearly all moth species that broadcast anti-bat sounds upon hearing sonar also produced ultrasonic disturbance sounds when handled. Three subfamilies from three different families (Erebidae: Erebinae, Crambidae: Spilomelinae, Sphingidae: Smerinthinae) produced ultrasound only in response to tactile stimulation. Producing ultrasound to touch may be a generalized anti-predator response intended to startle attackers.

A molecular phylogeny of Lepidoptera indicating anti-predator ultrasound production across the order. Bars and nodes with magenta outlines represent taxa associated with sufficiently large duty cycle values (>18%) for sonar jamming. Asterisks indicate taxa known to produce ultrasound, but not in response to either tactile stimuli nor bat ultrasound. Grayscale images indicate taxa that do not produce ultrasound. This phylogeny is meant to illustrate the diversity of ultrasound production and offer broad strokes on the origins of anti-predator sounds at the family and subfamily level.

The study went on to discover three new ways moths produce ultrasound in addition to the two methodes known previously :

Anti-bat ultrasound-producing structures. A-D. Mittonia hampsoni (Pyralidae: Pyralinae) produces ultrasonic clicks in flight via modified scales on the tegula; A. Scale bar = 1.0 cm; B. Tegula, 0.2 mm; C. Tegular scales, 50 μm; D. Response to bat sonar playback (Mittonia hampsoni), 100 ms). E-H. Lymantria sp. (Erebidae: Lymantriinae) generates ultrasound with paired tymbals recessed in abdominal pockets; E. Scale bar = 1.0 cm; F. Arrow indicates one of the tymbal pair, 1.0 mm; G. Close up of one tymbal, 0.5 mm; H. Response to bat sonar playback (Lymantria sp.), 100 ms. I-L. Melese sp. (Erebidae: Arctiinae) emits ultrasound with paired thoracic tymbals; I. Scale bars = 1.0 cm; J. Tymbal 0.5 mm; K. Close-up of microstriations on tymbal surface, 0.1 mm; L. Response to bat sonar playback (Melese peruviana), 100 ms. M-P. Gonodonta sicheas (Erebidae: Calpinae) produces ultrasound by stridulating modified abdominal scales; M. Scale bar = 1.0 cm; N. Patch of stridulatory scales, 0.5 mm; O. Stridulatory scale, Scale bar = 50 μm; P. Response to bat sonar playback (Gonodonta bidens), 100 ms. Q-T. Xylophanes falco (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae) produces ultrasound by stridulating modified genital valves; Q. Scale bar = 1 cm; R. Patch of stridulatory scales on genital valve, 0.5 mm; S. Stridulatory scales, 0.2 mm; T. Response to bat sonar playback (Xylophanes amadis), 100 ms.