Frequently Asked Questions

The Garden Butterfly Survey is a UK citizen science project that anyone can take part in if they have regular access to a private or shared garden (including allotments). Participants share their observations of butterflies in gardens through this website and, when collated together, these data help Butterfly Conservation and others to understand how butterflies are faring in the UK's gardens. Butterfly Conservation run the survey because we'd like to assess the importance of gardens as habitat for butterflies and determine how people can best manage their gardens to help boost butterfly populations. Sightings and information submitted about gardens will help answer these questions. The survey scheme is set up specifically for gardens and you can share sightings from any time of year. This is different from Butterfly Conservation’s other schemes and surveys which focus on other habitats, or take place over only part of the year. Please note: your Garden Butterfly Survey sightings will not form part of the Big Butterfly Count.

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We want to know which butterfly species are in your garden and how many of them are present throughout the year. Sign up and tell us a few facts about your garden. Then  throughout the year you can log your sightings through this website. There is no set method, you don’t have to spend a particular length of time looking and you can submit records as often as you wish. However, it is helpful for the results if you check your garden at least monthly in reasonable weather so we get a year-round picture.  When counting, please note the maximum number of each species present in the garden at the time. Butterflies can be very active so try not to count the same individual more than once. You should not enter negative records (i.e. when you have looked for butterflies in your garden but not seen any). 

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From the home screen, click Sign Up in the Join In panel. Now on the registration page complete the fields with your details and your garden’s details.

Click to submit and you will receive an automatic authentication email to confirm the email address and create a password. When this arrives (this could take a few minutes) click the link and your account is confirmed.

To log into your account next time, click Sign In on the home page top right menu (or also from the footer). Enter your username or email and your password created during registration and click 'sign in'. If you have forgotten your password or username you can follow the links to reset this information.

If you previously participated in the survey from our old website you will need to register again on this new site, thank you for your support and for joining again. Please see our other FAQs.

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If you previously participated in the survey from our old website (2016-2022) you will need to register again on this new site and create new log in details, your previous log in details will not work.

Thank you for your support and for joining again. Your previously entered records have been shared with data verifiers for Butterfly Conservation's national recording scheme and local datasets.

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To enter a sighting, you first need to sign in (or sign up if this is your first visit to the new website).

Next, click the Submit Sightings menu link. A form will open on the screen. Select the date of your sighting and the survey garden name. The grid reference for your survey garden will now appear automatically and the garden butterfly photographs for your survey region will also appear below. You can click on the 'i' symbol for more information and images of a species.

Find the species you want to record. It is likely to be shown among the garden butterfly photographs open on the form. If not, then click on 'Other species' to expand the list until you locate the correct species.

Click in the empty box below the image of the species you saw. Type the maximum number of that species that you saw in the survey garden at any one time that day. The box will turn green. You can also add a photograph by clicking on the camera symbol for a species.

When you've added all the sightings for that date, scroll down to the bottom of the page and press the blue Submit button. 

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All sorts of gardens can provide a safe home for butterflies, if managed sensitively. As well as private domestic gardens, you can take part in the Garden Butterfly Survey in a shared, communal garden, community garden or at your allotment. When you register your garden you can tell us which type it is.

If you want to record butterflies anywhere else, please join one of our other schemes.

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Your butterfly sightings (but not your email) will be immediately accessible to any organisation or registered users of iRecord and they will be able to use them for non-commercial purposes. iRecord also enables your sightings to be seen and checked by butterfly experts associated with the Garden Butterfly Survey and Butterflies for the New Millennium recording scheme, including Butterfly Conservation staff and volunteers (also known as County Recorders). These individuals will additionally have special access to your email address for their role in checking (verifying) your sightings. 

You may be contacted via the email address you provide if there are any queries about your sightings. This vital process of verification means data are checked and, where necessary adjusted, before any records are added to the UK butterfly recording scheme (Butterflies for the New Millennium) database.

Other organisations such as Local Environmental Records Centres, other conservation bodies and scientific researchers may also access the butterfly records from iRecord or from Butterfly Conservation to support their work. County Recorders may include copies of your records within the local datasets they manage. Your records might be published, for example as part of a distribution map and dataset.

Your Garden Butterfly Survey sightings will not be used as part of the Big Butterfly Count as this has a different methodology (requiring a 15 minute count of specific target species during a short period each summer), so please take part in the Big Butterfly Count separately from the Garden Butterfly Survey. 

Further detail of how your personal data and records are processed, stored and shared can be found in the Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

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You enter the location of your garden during registration by clicking on a map or entering a grid reference. You also give a 'site name' such as the nearest town, borough or village. When you view your own records you'll see the accurate location and the site name.

When Butterfly Conservation and iRecord Verifiers view your records they will also see full details, so your butterfly observations can be checked and any feedback can be provided. Butterfly Conservation and iRecord Verifiers can also download Garden Butterfly Survey records with full details to add them to Butterflies for the New Millennium database and local County Recorder databases that they manage and share.

Other users of iRecord or other Garden Butterfly Survey users cannot view or download your records with full location details in the public view. They can see your name and the garden location blurred to the nearest 1Km without a site name.

Your full record details may be shared, including publicly, according to the Privacy Notice and the Terms of Use. Please read these to learn more about how your personal data and butterfly records are processed, stored and shared.

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There are several different schemes, locally and nationally, to record butterflies. We don't want you to enter your garden butterfly sightings more than once. Not only is this extra effort for you but it also creates duplicate records. So, if you take part in the Garden Butterfly Survey you do not need to put the same sightings into other recording systems. Your Garden Butterfly Survey records will be passed on to Butterfly Conservation's local branches and County Recorders, and made accessible to Local Environmental Records Centres.  Our advice is to choose one scheme for your garden sightings.

An exception is the Big Butterfly Count – you may want to take part in this annual snapshot survey from within your garden. Please do, but don’t enter the same count into the Garden Butterfly Survey as well. Or alternatively you could take part in the Big Butterfly Count from other locations.

If you previously participated in the Garden Butterfly Survey from our old website (2016-2022) you will need to register again on this new site, thank you for your support and for joining again.

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Butterflies are relatively easy to identify compared to many other types of wildlife, but can still prove a challenge, especially if they are very active and if you are new to butterfly recording.

If you are not completely sure of the identity of a butterfly that you see in the garden it is best not to enter the sighting. If in doubt, leave it out!

To help with identification, from the Submit sightings page you can click the 'i' symbol on any species to see more information and photographs of that butterfly. Or you may wish to borrow or buy an identification guidebook to take out into the garden with you. When your records are checked by skilled volunteers via iRecord, you may receive feedback on the identification that could help improve your knowledge and future recording.

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If the butterfly is not listed in any of the forms on the 'submit sightings' page then you cannot record it directly. If you are certain of your identification then you can include details in the notes section of the sightings form.

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You can add additional gardens to your registered account .

After signing in, scroll down to the footer of the website and click “Register or update a garden” in the Site pages menu. This will take you to the “My survey gardens” page. You’ll see a grey box with a list of your gardens, and a map. 

Click the blue "Add a garden button" to the right of the map. This will take you through the same garden questions you completed for the first garden. Click submit. You will be directed back to the “My survey gardens” page where you’ll see your new garden in the list and on the map.

Then next time your go to submit sightings, select the relevant garden name from the drop down. Note: the butterfly species will not appear until you have selected a garden.

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You can amend your survey garden details when things change, for example if there is now a meadow area.

You can do this by signing in and going to ‘Register or update a garden’, available from the Site Pages menu in the website footer. You will be directed to the "My survey gardens" page. You can see a map and list of your garden(s).

From here, find the garden name in the grey table and click ‘edit’ to the right of its name. This will direct you to the garden details page for that survey garden. You can scroll through and edit the relevant details. Then click 'Submit' at the bottom of the page to save those changes.

You can also add in additional garden sites if you record somewhere else from the "My survey gardens" page, using the "Add a new garden" blue button.

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If you move house, then simply follow the "Sign up and register your garden" link on the home page and you can register your new house's garden by clicking the blue "Add a new garden" button. Then, when you enter sightings you will be able to choose which garden they are for.

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During the first three months after launch of the new website, re-registering participants could request their past records from the old website were transferred for display on the new website and iRecord. We completed the requested data transfers in August 2022. 

Transferred records from the old website are included in Explore Map and the survey pie chart on the Reports page, when past years are selected, for everyone to view.

If you re-registered on the current website with the same email address used on the old website and requested the optional data transfer, you can see your own past records (2021 and earlier) for Garden Butterfly Survey. You can find these records listed on the Reports page under My records, and these also feature within My statistics. The My surveys page only displays surveys entered into the current website.

Note that historic records have been shared with County Recorders for entry into local and national databases.

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Your Garden Butterfly Survey records are shared with County Butterfly Recorders (CBRs) and their assistants, who are registered as iRecord 'verifiers'. These expert volunteers check your records, using their local and ecological knowledge. CBRs add verified records into local databases. Butterfly Conservation relies on these verified data to make sure the National Scheme database is robust for science and conservation. 

When your records are checked directly in iRecord, you may receive emailed feedback from your local CBR. You may also receive automated email messages from iRecord about the status of your records. Some CBRs may verify records outside of iRecord.

Note that your 'unknown white' records may not be verified as these are not identified to species level so wouldn't go into final databases, but we are interested in monitoring these recordings separately.

We relaunched Garden Butterfly Survey with a fresh system in 2022 that connects to iRecord, to make regular sharing of records with verifiers more straightforward. In September 2022, we switched on the data flow to iRecord verifiers. Records are also now publicly visible to other iRecord users. We delayed this switch while we arranged historic records access for recorders.

Recorders who asked for a copy of their past records can now see these in their Garden Butterfly accounts. But note that this historic dataset is not provided to County Recorders via iRecord, as the records have already been shared.

Please note that the public visibility of Garden Butterfly records is set to 1Km in iRecord, but verifiers have enhanced access to view and download records at the level of detail originally entered ("capture resolution") in accordance with the Ts & Cs and privacy notice on the site.

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In 2022, Butterfly Conservation relaunched Garden Butterfly Survey with a brand new website. The new site is improving data flow and has been designed with recorder feedback in mind.

Behind the scenes, the new system now feeds directly into iRecord This means your butterfly sightings are now immediately available to County Recorder data verifiers, Butterfly Conservation Branches and Local Environmental Records Centres.

The new website hosts the same year-round garden survey with enhanced recording options. This includes adding photographs to your records, adding more than one garden to your account and taking part from shared gardens, community gardens or allotments.

Throughout the year we will be adding more guidance and resources to the site. And, if you opt in, you can now receive news and advice about gardens and butterflies to your inbox.

This work is part of Supporting Science, a project that’s improving data flow and supporting our recorders and volunteers to access natural heritage digitally. Supporting Science received DCMS and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.

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