FARMLAND butterflies in Cumbria flourished last year in the best summer for seven years, a new survey has found.

The Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey found that the insects thrived as a result of long periods of warm, sunny weather.

Running since 2009, the annual survey counts butterflies in more than 850 random one km squares across the UK, with ten squares in Cumbria.

“On average people saw 45 individual butterflies,” said Zoe Randle, butterfly conservation surveys officer. “We had a good summer, the warmest and driest, which are good conditions for them to breed.”

Typical farmland species such as the Common Blue were seen in twice as many squares in Cumbria last year, bouncing back from a crash in 2012.

“The most widespread and abundant butterfly in Cumbria was the Green-veined white, with 190 seen,” said Dr Zoe.

Numbers of the Small Tortoiseshell fell by almost half in Cumbria, compared to the previous year, however.

Others species spotted in the county included the Northern Brown Argus and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, quite a rare species in the UK.

In total 891 butterflies were seen last year compared to 505 in 2012.

Kate Risely, who co-ordinates the butterfly surveyors at the British Trust for Ornithology, said: “These results demonstrate the value of large-scale volunteer surveys for monitoring country-wide trends in butterfly numbers.

“Recording butterflies and birds at the same sites gives us an insight into our countryside.”

Dr Randle added: “It looks amazing because the previous summers have been poor.

“Hopefully the recent bad weather won’t affect this year’s numbers, but caterpillars may suffer and it could be the same for butterflies.”

Meanwhile, volunteers from Morecambe Bay Butterfly Task Force have been hard at work this winter coppicing and clearing scrub and trees in woodlands. They have learned the skills of green woodworking which are essential to help vulnerable species avoid extinction while converting waste wood into products such as bean sticks and woven hazel hurdles.

Butterfly task force officer Hilary Smith said: “The butterflies are here today because of this woodland management in the past.”