Pesticides threaten to wipe out UK butterfly population

Pesticides are contributing to the decline of several species of butterflies, according to environmental scientists.

The common blue is widespread across the UK but experts warn it is in decline as more intensive agriculture and lack of woodland management reduces its habitat.

The common blue is widespread across the UK but experts warn it is in decline . Image by Tony Cox/Butterfly Conservation/PA Wire

As many as 15 types of native butterfly in Britain have recorded marked reductions in their populations and the pesticide neonicotinoid is thought to be the reason for the decline.

The chemical have already been linked with harming bees, birds and many forms of wildlife. However the Daily Express reports that this is the first time researchers have identified the pesticide as a possible cause of butterfly numbers declining.

Since 2005, former widespread species of butterfly have disappeared by 58% across the country’s farms.

Findings gathered by volunteers at over 1000 British sites saw a fall in numbers of species like the wall butterfly, the small skipper and the small tortoise.

Ecologist Dr Andre Gilburn, from the University of Stirling, who led the study, said their research identified the link while the information suggested that the impact of the pesticide across many species was alarmingly high.

Also partaking in the study was the University of Sussex, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the Butterfly Conservation published this week in the PeerJ journal.

Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, Dave Goulson, claimed that the study merely underlined the growing mountain of evidence pointing the finger at neonicotinoids as a major problem in these declines.

Two years ago, the EU banned them for use on flowering crops but the British government has continued to allow them to be used on oilseed rape in parts of the country.

The head of monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, Dr Tom Brereton said there was now a need for urgent research into the matter.

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