Members of the public in Brussels and Wallonia are invited this weekend to take part in a census of butterflies in their own gardens and other green spaces. The census is organised by nature organisation Natagora, and follows a similar event organised last weekend by the Flemish counterpart, Natuurpunt.
Part of the reason for the public census is to draw the attention of the people to the diminishing number of wild species, caused by changes to the use of green spaces, and in particular to the use of pesticides.
“We’re asking ordinary people to devote at least an hour of their time if possible, to a weekend in their garden,” explained Fanny Vanobberghen, spokesperson for Natagora. “Using the species guide on our website, even beginners can find their way.”
The project asks members of the public to count the number of different species they see, and how many of each, as well as the time of day at which they were sighted. The site also gives a list of suggestions on how to make your garden more hospitable to butterflies and other insects. That includes planting plants attractive not only to butterflies but also caterpillars, using mainly native species, and avoiding he use of chemicals.
Last weekend, the Natuurpunt survey carried out in Flanders reported an “extremely low number” of butterflies as a result of the heat, which caused many to emerge from their chrysalis early, only to face a shortage of nectar from plants which had virtually dried up.
The average garden in Flanders reported seven examples of four species, compared to 14 examples of five species in 2016. The most common species was the small cabbage white Pieris rapae (photo), followed by its larger cousin.