Butterfly experts in a flap

A Purple Emperor. Photo courtesy of Leigh Prevost.
A Purple Emperor. Photo courtesy of Leigh Prevost.

Some of the UK’s top butterfly experts will compete on Friday in an eccentric battle for the title: Butterfly Kings of the South.

National Trust butterfly expert Matthew Oates will lead the Glanville Fritillaries team in Sussex, while TV naturalist Nick Baker will lead the Wood Whites team in Hampshire.

The teams will compete to see which can spot the most butterfly species in one day. The competition is being run to promote the Big Butterfly Count, an annual nationwide survey which uses butterfly numbers to assess the environment.

Nick Baker said: “What is a butterfly race? A full-on day where a gentle traditional pursuit collides head on with brutal competition. Of course, if we could go back in time and run the same competition 100 years ago we would probably have seen everything by lunch time and be able to retire to the pub for the remainder of the afternoon!”

Mathew Oates said: “When it comes to eccentricity British natural history still has what it takes.”

Race organiser Dr Dan Danahar, who teaches at Dorothy Stringer School, Brighton, said: “There are many good reasons for counting butterflies: this citizen’s science improves our understanding of the changing face of butterfly ecology; it highlights the plight of these most beautiful members of our natural heritage but to my mind it also improves our relationship with the natural world, it can enhance our joy for living.”

You can follow the teams’ progress on Twitter using #butterflyrace

For more information visit: www.bigbutterflycount.org