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Butterflies thrive in wet, survey suggests.

BUTTERFLIES did better than feared in the wet and miserable weather across much of the UK in July and August, experts have said.

More than half of the 20 species counted by the public in the Big Butterfly Count recorded better numbers than they did last year, although people braving the soggy conditions saw fewer butterflies on average than in 2014, charity Butterfly Conservation said.

One butterfly species managed to defy the parasitic wasp which lays eggs in its caterpillars, to see numbers bounce back after a series of declines.

The garden favourite, the holly blue butterfly, whose numbers boom and bust because of the parasitic wasp, saw a 151% increase in numbers compared to last year and its best showing in the Big Butterfly Count since 2010.

When numbers of both species are low, the holly blue can quickly build its population but the wasp soon catches up to take advantage of the booming numbers of caterpillars and the butterfly's population crashes.

The holly blue has been struggling in recent summers but bounced back this year as it enjoyed a temporary advantage over the wasp.

Elsewhere in the count, the gatekeeper claimed top spot as the most commonly seen species with numbers up 17% on last year, while the large white butterfly recovered from a fall seen last year to claim second spot with a 46% rise.

But overall, people spotted an average of 13.4 butterflies per count compared to 14.7 in 2014, as the damp condition proved less than ideal for the sun-loving insects.

Common garden butterflies the peacock and small tortoiseshell both saw numbers fall by more than half compared to last summer, while red admirals and speckled wood butterflies experienced falls of a quarter on 2014's count.

People had been asked to keep an eye out for common blue butterflies while at the coast, but numbers were down 12% on last year. A record 52,000 people took part in the count this year, spotting 600,000 butterflies.

Butterfly Conservation's head of recording Richard Fox said: "One of the highlights of this year's count was the holly blue. I didn't see a single one last summer but they seemed to be everywhere this year."

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 17, 2015
Words:370
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