A new Europe-wide, multilingual mobile phone app will make it easier for butterfly enthusiasts to monitor trends of species across the continent and enable scientists to assess the impacts of environmental change on biodiversity.

It has been launched by the European Butterfly Monitoring Scheme – which is led by Butterfly Conservation Europe and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – as the traditional season for recording this diverse and popular group of insects gets under way.

Recorders are asked to follow their own government’s guidance on restricted movement due to the COVID-19 situation and only carry out counts where permitted to do so. The UK Government’s guidelines are available at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The ButterflyCount app has the latest full list of the different butterfly species found across Europe – around 500 in total – and guides that are all available offline. It enables people to submit records in a variety of ways, though the preferred method is a 15-minute count. This is made easier thanks to a stopwatch feature as well as a GPS tracking facility so you do not need to submit your route or area surveyed. Recorders add sightings incrementally, by simply tapping +1 every time they see individuals of each species during a count.

All the features are translated into 15 European languages, with more being added.

While the app requires users to be able to distinguish between different species, it will allow thousands of enthusiasts to track the trends in butterfly species across Europe, supporting biodiversity monitoring.

Dr David Roy of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) explains: “We have put a lot of thought into the development of the app, to make it as easy to use as possible. The ‘record as you go’ functionality enables people to compile lists of species, and numbers seen at any location, with minimal effort.”

The results will be entered into the European Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (eBMS) database and used to establish trends of species across Europe.

Dr Chris van Swaay of Butterfly Conservation Europe says: “People play a vital role in improving our understanding of the world around us. Butterflies are accurate indicators of biodiversity loss or increase because they are sensitive to environmental change. Butterfly enthusiasts are therefore significantly supporting scientific research and, ultimately, local and national conservation initiatives to improve butterfly populations.”

The ButterflyCount app is available for iPhones and iPads via the Apple app store as well for Android devices at Google Play. There are more details on the European Butterfly Monitoring Scheme website at https://butterfly-monitoring.net/ebms-app

Further information

The development of the app has been funded by an EU Pilot Project, ABLE (Assessing ButterfLies in Europe), which is a partnership involving Butterfly Conservation Europe, UKCEH, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany, Dutch Butterfly Conservation and Butterfly Conservation UK. This project will provide an analysis on the state of Europe’s butterflies by producing trends for species in grassland, woodland and wetland habitats, as well as examining the impacts of climate change as well as EU policies and initiatives on butterfly populations.