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David Attenborough’s Big Butterfly Count 2017: collecting my results

Today I took part in the final day of The big butterfly count 2017; a nationwide survey endorsed by Sir David Attenborough to assess the health of our environment.

big butterfly count

Launched at the London Wetland Centre in July, the survey — which saw more than 36,000 people take part last year — uses butterflies’ quick reaction to change in their environment as an indicator for biodiversity. Declines in butterfly numbers can act as early warning signs for other wildlife losses.

Following the advice of the big butterfly count’s website, I found a sunny spot and stood for 15 minutes with my survey sheet and eyes peeled, monitoring all the butterflies that came into view. As Sir David Attenborough explains in the video above, buddleia is an invasive species, but its flowers hugely attract butterflies.

In the 15 minute time slot, I spotted eight Red Admiral butterflies (photographed above)…

two orange and brown Commas (pictured above)…

a Large White butterfly (identified by the black tips at the top of its wings and a black spot)…

and one Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (note the tiny dots of blue at the base of its wings).

The official data collecting days of the big butterfly count were 14th July to 6th August, though sightings from this period can be logged online or through the app until the end of the month. Butterfly ID sheets are still available to download online here.

big butterfly count certificate

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Making an impact with bee hotels

June is a rather special month for Discovery employees, as the entire, global team simultaneously takes part in a day of giving back to the community, known as Impact Day.

This year, the volunteer project that I chose to participate in involved making bee hotels with a local school, Granton Primary.

Impact Day employeesI didn’t really know much about bee hotels or how to make them before Impact Day, so it was surprising to me to learn just how simple it was.

Firstly, the type of bee we were making the bee hotels for, solitary bees, do not live in a hive. Instead, they nest in sandy banks, hollow stems and wood. Bee hotels replicate hollow stems and provide a safe environment for the bees to nest, where they won’t be accidentally disturbed by humans or exposed to predators.

Crafting bee hotelsWe cut the tops off of 1 litre plastic bottles, securely taping thick tape over the sharp edges (to prevent any of the schoolchildren from accidentally cutting themselves), and then began the process of rolling sheets of paper around a pencil, to keep the hollow tubes as thin as possible.

Once the tube was rolled, the end of the paper was stuck down with sellotape, to keep it from unraveling, and then cut down so that when each tube was stood up inside the bottle, they would be shorter than the bottle’s edge. Apparently this means the bees will lay their eggs inside the protection of the ‘bee hotel’, rather than in an exposed bit of paper, which a bird can still easily access with its beak. It was important to pack the tubes in tightly, so they wouldn’t move around.

13427878_628945350603346_6972904180356332766_nGranton Primary School focus heavily on eco and environment in their studies, and their pupils came armed with information about solitary bees to teach us adults, and had even made quizzes to test our knowledge!

One of the things I was surprised to learn is that solitary bees do not sting! I was definitely under the impression that all bees stung before! But then, I wasn’t previously aware that there are so many species of bee in Britain either (approximately 250!), so assumed they all had the same characteristics. Turns out, they don’t.

Pupils quizzing the teamSo why is it important to protect bees?

As pollinators, bees help to produce more than three-quarters of the world’s crops, but they are under threat due to fewer suitable nest sites and fewer wild flowers. There has also been an increase in pesticide use in the UK. Of the approximate 250 bee species in Britain, 25% are listed as endangered.

IMG_0332It feels so important to do something as simple as making (or buying) a bee hotel, and hanging it in your garden. The paper tubes will need maintaining (replacing) at the end of the summer, but again, it really is simple!

I loved learning all these bee facts at Impact Day this year, and feel like I’ve only just brushed the surface of the issues that bees are currently facing in today’s world. Fortunately, I came across some further reading on Wildlife Kate’s using Wildlife to learn blog for Michael Drayton Junior School (who I met at the UK Blog Awards in April). It just so happens that this week, she’s discussing what happens in a bee hotel, which for me, is a perfect follow up to my Impact Day with Discovery Education UK, of learning from pupils!

bee video

Watching a Discovery Education video on bee hotels.

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