Every five years, Butterfly Conservation and our partners publish a ‘state of the nation’ of the UK’s butterflies based on data submitted by volunteers and recorders.

These are freely available online from our website and our most recent can be found here

Following is a simplified account of how butterfly recording is carried out. There are staff and Branch members in Northern Ireland who run workshops, undertake surveys etc and will be more than happy to teach you so if you’re interested, please get in touch with an officer.


Red Admiral - Tim Melling

Help with Identification of Butterflies   

Butterfly Conservation’s Public Group FB page
Our public group page is really active with some of Ireland’s leading entomologists following it as well as a whole host of fantastic recorders and volunteers. Identification, tips, comments and inspiration can all be found here. It’s educational, insightful and current.

Insects/Invertebrates of Ireland FB page
Another fantastic page that covers all invertebrates found in Ireland. Experts of different invert groups follow the page and kindly provide identification, comments, tips. Educational, fascinating and current again!

Casual Sightings of Butterflies
These are sightings of species that you will encounter when visiting a site or out-and-about but not part of a regular butterfly walk or transect. They are not time-bound and follow a presence/absence model. Casual sightings of butterflies should be submitted to NI’s biological recording centre, the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) or by using the app iRecord for mobile devices.

You will need to record the following information for the record:

  • Date seen
  • Grid Reference (an interactive Google map will allow you to find the location)
  • Species (can be a single species or a list of species)
  • Abundance/how many
  • Recorders name/s
  • A photograph of the species if it is rare, the location outside it’s normal range etc.


Brimstone (mating pair) - Rob Blanken

Big Butterfly Count

This is a family-friendly annual survey that takes place mid-summer for three weeks. The aim of the survey is to get as many people recording butterflies as possible, wherever is convenient and interesting to them! Online resources include an Identification Chart and you can also follow the progress of the survey as people add their surveys.


The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme

Butterfly Conservation, along with our partners, run the UKBMS, the world’s longest-running butterfly monitoring programme. Everything you need to know about the different surveys including resources and tutorials can be found on this website.

If you are interested in getting involved in these, you will need to contact the relevant scheme Champion/Co-Ordinator or a staff member to be allocated a square, get going on a Transect or survey for a particular species. We run workshops periodically on the scheme and would strongly advise that those new to butterfly identification or the surveys attend one of these workshops or contact us on running one for your group/area.


Silver-washed Fritillary - Adam Gor

Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS)

This survey involves a volunteer visiting a randomly-chosen 1km square 2-4 times a year between May and September. The survey has been designed to take the pulse of our wider countryside butterfly species, outside our special places and nature reserves. Guidance to the scheme can be found on the UKBMS website, under Resources for Field Surveyors.

There are WCBS squares located across Northern Ireland… to see if there’s a square that you’re interested in, please check the WCBS NI Map (2018), along with the guidance, and then email the WCBS Champion at @email to see if it’s free.


Common Blues - Ivan Lynas

Transects (all butterfly species Transect)

Our Transect network is hugely important to us, allowing us to develop trends or indices for species. Transects are walked weekly during the recording season which runs from April to September, in suitable weather which can mean 26 weekly walks so we certainly acknowledge the effort required. Again, guidance and forms are available to download from the UKBMS website.

Our butterfly Transects are walked by a range of people - from agency and NGO staff to interest groups. Additional walkers to help with the rota are also welcome so if you think you can help, please get in touch! Following is a map of the current NI Butterfly Transects. If you’re interested in helping out on any of these or in setting-up a new Transect, please email the Transect Co-Ordinator at @email


Butterfly Atlas 2021

Our colleagues in the Republic of Ireland at the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) are leading on the development of a Butterfly Atlas for the island of Ireland up 2021. Guidance and resources for the Atlas can be found online. The attractiveness of this survey is that it doesn’t tie you to visiting your square for the medium-to long-term and that you can roam at will (depending on where needs visited).


Marsh Fritillary - Iain H Leach

Marsh Fritillary Monitoring Scheme

The Marsh Fritillary is a European priority species with Ireland and the UK being a European-stronghold for the species. Due to the protection afforded the species and its status, it has its own dedicated survey (although the methodology will be familiar to those who already survey!).

Butterfly Conservation is working with our partners in the Republic of Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) in monitoring the species. We have agreed standards for surveying the species with data gathered being submitted to the Marsh Fritillary Monitoring Scheme.

As this is a protected species and we are involved in targeted action for the species, we ask that people contact us to receive training and to best focus our efforts. Additionally, in Northern Ireland, individuals wishing to survey the species need to apply to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for a Wildlife Licence.