Butterfly Conservation Scotland and the Highland Biodiversity Partnership are urging people throughout Scotland to keep their eyes peeled for a common butterfly whose distribution in Scotland seems to be affected by climate change.
The distinctive Peacock over-winters as an adult and flies in gardens and other flowery places mainly between March and June, and again in August and September.
The peacock has become far more widespread in Scotland since the 1980’s and from 2000 there has been a large increase in records north of the Firth of Forth including a sudden invasion into parts of the Highlands in September 2002. Since then it has continued to thrive and expand, probably due to milder winters.
Dr Tom Prescott of Butterfly Conservation Scotland said: “We are asking the public to help us track the spread of this beautiful butterfly, by reporting sightings on our web site or by returning our Peacock postcards. These records will give us a better idea of how butterflies are responding to climate change.”
Councillor Isobel McCallum, Chairperson of the Highland Biodiversity Partnership and Vice Chair of The Highland Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee, said: “We hope that this survey will encourage people to find out more about the butterflies and other wildlife that live in their gardens, parks and green spaces.”
Postcards depicting the butterfly have been distributed throughout Scotland to visitor centres, libraries, and museums. Members of the public who have seen a Peacock butterfly can fill in a postcard and send it back to Butterfly Conservation Scotland, who will then compile the records and from them find out how much further this butterfly has spread.
People who see a peacock, but don’t have a postcard, can submit a record online at www.butterfly-conservation.org and clicking on the quick link “Scottish Peacock Survey”.
Last year, Butterfly Conservation Scotland ran a similar postcard survey focusing on the Orange-tip butterfly. The survey found that the butterfly was far more widespread than 10 years earlier. The increases were mainly recorded north of the Central Belt, particularly in Grampian, Highland and Argyll. Many new sites were found in Wester Ross and Sutherland, demonstrating an expansion of the butterfly’s range to the north and west.
“The response to the survey was fantastic,” said Dr Prescott. “We predict the findings of the Peacock survey will be even more dramatic. The Peacock is a strong flyer and, unlike the Orange-tip, can live almost anywhere as the caterpillars feed on nettles.”
There are 33 species of butterfly that regularly breed in Scotland, and around 1300 species of moths, although more are coming north each year with climate change.
Butterfly Conservation Scotland and the Highland Biodiversity Partnership have produced a new guide to help people identify butterflies in the Highlands. The guides and postcards are available from Highland Council’s Countryside Rangers or by contacting Janet Bromham, Highland Biodiversity Officer on 01463 702274 e-mail email@example.com.