Butterflies fluttering at Cotehele

James Robbins, National Trust Ranger James Robbins National Trust Ranger
Red admiral

Once a week between April and September, the ranger team at Cotehele walk around the garden and estate armed with butterfly nets and clipboards and count butterflies.

The three-mile route is divided into 14 sections or ‘transects’. This year they’ll also record butterfly populations in previously under-recorded areas in the hope of finding some new species at Cotehele. They feed the weekly survey data into the Butterfly Conservation’s national monitoring scheme.

" Butterflies are a good indicator of the health of the environment. If butterflies aren’t doing well, it’s an indication that other species are probably struggling too."
- James Robbins, Cotehele Ranger

Counting the butterflies every year helps flag up changes in their population – that’s what’s good about the transects. It’s a set route and the team can see fluctuations in the butterfly population as the years go by.

Fourteen and counting

So far, they’ve recorded 14 different species of butterfly on the transect route and they estimate there are at least three other species at Cotehele as well.

Ranger James Robbins on his weekly butterfly count
Ranger James Robbins amongst yellow flowers catching butterflies in a net at Cotehele, Cornwall
Ranger James Robbins on his weekly butterfly count

Managing for wildlife

There's a growing concern that the trend for warmer, wetter winters will seriously affect many butterflies. The rangers at Cotehele are doing work in the woodlands to improve butterfly habitat by removing overhanging vegetation, conducting woodland edge management and improving the woodland understory.

This will allow for more sunlight and encourage brambles, honeysuckle and coppiced regrowth – all things butterflies love. The work is beneficial for other species too.

The Silver-washed Fritillary is the largest of the fritillary butterflies
Silver washed fritillary butterly heddon valley
The Silver-washed Fritillary is the largest of the fritillary butterflies

The Big Butterfly Count

Every year we participate in the Big Butterfly Count sponsored by the charity 'Butterfly Conservation'. The data we collect, combined with the scientific weekly count that the Cotehele rangers and about 1500 others across the UK do as part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, contributes to Butterfly Conservation’s effort to protect butterflies from extinction. It also helps Butterfly Conservation understand the effect of climate change on wildlife. Do come along and join in the count for 2019 from 19 July to 11 August, when we'll have spotter guides and count sheets to help you identify and monitor the butterflies you see.