Did you know that this week is the last week in which to take part in the Big Butterfly Count?
Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, it’s the world’s largest butterfly survey.
Participants are encouraged to spot and record 17 species of common butterfly and two day-flying moths in the UK during three weeks of high summer.
Last year more than 100,000 people counted over one million butterflies in total during the count, which runs from 19 July to 11 August.
Taking part in the count is easy – find a sunny place and spend just 15 minutes counting every butterfly seen and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org.
We’re telling you this because one of this year’s BridLit treats for nature lovers is the writer Peter Marren, who’ll be talking about his new book, Emperors, Admirals and Chimney-Sweepers, The Naming of Butterflies and Moths (Little Toller Books, £30).
This beautiful book, written with Marren’s usual wit and insight, takes the reader on a journey back to a time before the arts and science were divided. When entomologists were also poets and painters, and when a gift for vivid language went hand-in-hand with a deep, pre-Darwinian fascination for the emerging natural world.
Many have remarked on the poetic names of our butterflies and moths. Their beauty fires our imaginations. Some are named after human occupations and social rank: Emperors, footmen, a miller, Quakers, lackeys, ‘rustics’ and chimney-sweepers. Still more are named after animals: tigers, hawks, goats, sharks, even pug dogs.
There are species named after jewels, musical instruments, fabrics, letters, carpets, flowers, heraldry and shells. Some names are downright baffling. Why was one butterfly called an ‘admiral’ and another an ‘argus’? Why, for that matter, are they called ‘butterflies’?
Marren has written widely on the natural world and our association with it. Among some twenty books, he is the author of Rainbow Dust, Bugs Britannica, The New Naturalists which won the Thackray Medal, as well as contributions to Collins New Naturalist, the British Wildlife Collection and Poyser Natural History, He writes regularly for British Wildlife and Butterfly magazine and is a former columnist in The Countryman.