Jul 16

For the next three weeks, members of the public across the UK have the chance to get involved in the big butterfly count, a nationwide survey which will help to indicate not only the status of the UK’s butterfly populations, but also the health of our environment in general. As butterflies are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, butterfly declines can provide an important early warning system for other potential impacts on our wildlife.

With the UK having been subjected to unseasonably heavy rain over the last few months, conservationists are concerned that butterfly species may be struggling this year and therefore the count is more important than ever. Around 34,000 people took part in the big butterfly count 2011, and this year the organisers hope to make it even bigger.

If you would like to take part simply head over to the big butterfly count website, download an ID chart and spend 15 minutes recording the species you see in your garden, local park, woodland or field. Then all you need to do is submit your sightings online. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to spot some of these beauties…

Green hairstreak

Green hairstreak photo

Named after the white ‘streak’ across the fore- and hindwings, the wings of the green hairstreak are actually are dull brown on the uppersides, but bright green on the underside. The pupae of this species produce audible squeaks to attract ants, which are then thought to bury the pupae where they will hibernate until the following spring.

Six-spot burnet moth

Six-spot burnet moth photo

The six-spot burnet moth feeds on the nectar of a large range of flowers, with wild thyme being a particular favourite. A brightly coloured day-flying moth, the name is somewhat of a misnomer as the number of spots can vary between individuals, and spots may be fused in some cases.

Large white

Large white photo

A widespread and common species, the large white is the biggest of the white butterflies found in the UK, with a wingspan of up to 7cm. Females can be distinguished from males by the two black spots and a black streak on the fore-wings. The colourful caterpillars of this species consume mustard oils in their diet, making them very distasteful to birds.

Red admiral

Red admiral photo

A migratory species, red admiral adults emerge after hibernation in the UK between January and March, and are joined by butterflies that have travelled from North Africa and southern Europe between May and August. Adults are often seen in gardens feeding on nectar or rotten fruit.

Common blue

Common blue photo

The common blue is the most widespread of the blue butterflies in Britain. While the males are a striking bluish-violet, the females are more brown in colour, with orange spots near the margins of the wings. Favouring sunny, sheltered areas, the common blue is typically seen in woodland clearings, coastal dunes, road verges and cemeteries.

Speckled wood

Speckled wood photo

A common woodland butterfly, the speckled wood has numerous eye-spots on its wings. The male tends to perch in patches of sunlight, intercepting intruding butterflies. Males may also patrol an area in search of females, who lay single eggs on blades of grass after mating.


Brimstone photo

While the female brimstone is a greenish-white colour, the male is bright yellow and it is widely believed that this species was the inspiration for the name ‘butterfly’. This species has a very long proboscis, and can exploit flowers with very deep nectarines, including runner bean flowers and teasels.

Small tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell photo

A beautifully patterned butterfly, the small tortoiseshell has wings comprising black patches, areas of bright yellowish-orange and a fringe of blue spots, making this species instantly recognisable. The caterpillars feed on nettles and are common in areas of human activity.

Meadow brown

Meadow brown photo

A dark brown species with an eye-spot on each wing, the female meadow brown can be distinguished from the male by the presence of an orange patch on the forewings. Although found in a range of habitats, this species has suffered as a result of the decline in the extent of hay meadows in Britain.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly photo

One of the most beautiful butterflies in the UK, the peacock butterfly earns its name from the stunning eyespots on the wings which frighten predators, or divert birds from attacking the body. Males and females are similar in appearance but the males are slightly smaller and will defend territories in sunny locations, chasing any females that pass by.

If you do to take part over the coming weeks we would love to hear how you get on, why not leave a comment below and let us know what species you have seen, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter?

And for those of you outside of the UK, what species can you find in your local area? Do you have any favourites? Let us know!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Jun 25

ARKive is working with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) to help highlight the plight of the world’s invertebrates. Through our joint Invertebrate Photography Competition, we hope to increase the availablility of invertebrate imagery for conservation purposes.

We’re looking for images of the world’s invertebrates – from snails to spiders, beetles to butterflies or corals to crabs. Show us your best photos to help promote invertebrate conservation and to be in with a chance of winning some brilliant prizes!


The winning entry will receive a two-day ticket to WildPhotos 2012!

Presented by Mark Carwardine and Chris Packham, the annual two-day event is packed full of inspirational talks from the world’s top wildlife and conservation photographers where you can learn from industry experts, hear the stories behind the spectacular images, find out about the latest technologies and join the debate on the hottest topical issues.

Other prizes to be won

  • The best images will be displayed at a special exhibition at ZSL London Zoo in August 2012. Photographers whose images are selected will receive a pair of tickets to London Zoo to attend the photographic exhibition.
  • The winner and runners up will also receive a copy of ZSL’s report on the status and trends of invertebrates.

If you’re in need of some inspiration, explore the amazing variety of invertebrates on ARKive as well as some of the fabulous entries we’ve received so far. ..

© Adrian Gonzales-Guillen, Polymita picta form iolimbata

© Adrian Gonzales-Guillen

© Madjid Momeni Moghaddam

© Madjid Momeni Moghaddam










© P. Jeganathan, weaver Ant

© P. Jeganathan

© James Reardon

© James Reardon








© Heather Hillard, red pencil urchin

© Heather Hillard

© Elyssa Kellerman, Giraffe-necked weevil

© Elyssa Kellerman

Please submit your entries directly to ARKive at the following email address: invertphotocomp@wildscreen.org.uk
The deadline to enter the competition is 20th July 2012. Entries received after this date may still be used by ARKive, ZSL and IUCN (please see further information below).

We look forward to receiving your images of the world’s invertebrates. Good luck!


Terms and conditions for use of imagery by ARKive, IUCN and ZSL

  • All submitted images will be held in the repositories at ARKive, where they are being preserved and maintained for the benefit of future generations, and made available for non-commercial awareness-raising and educational purposes via the ARKive website. ARKive does not sell photographs, but rather the ARKive website acts as a showcase for image providers, displaying copyright and contact details with every image, as well as links to each media donor’s own web activities. See ARKive’s full terms and conditions.
  • The electronic copies of the images provided to ARKive may be made available to IUCN for electronic publishing on the IUCN Red List and the Amazing Species websites.
  • IUCN and ZSL may use images in electronic press-releases and resulting news stories promoting, for example, the IUCN Red List and the ZSL report on invertebrate status and trends.
  • ZSL may use the images in its report on invertebrate status and trends to be launched at Jeju, and related exhibitions, as specified in the letter above IUCN may also use the images in, for example, reports on the IUCN Red List. Copyright holders will be contacted prior to these activities.
  • Copyright holders will be acknowledged in any use of their images.
  • The images on the IUCN Red List websites and in associated IUCN and ZSL electronic products, as listed above, will be low-resolution (no larger than roughly 480×320) and will be clearly marked with a copyright notice. In addition, the Red List website ‘Terms of Use’ will include a restriction that those wishing to republish or otherwise use the images found on the Red List website or in Red List products should contact the copyright holders directly for approval for such use. ZSL terms and conditions for website use can be viewed at http://www.zsl.org/info/legal/content/general-terms,208,AR.html


Mar 2
Dlinza pinwheel image

Dlinza pinwheel (Trachycystis clifdeni)

Species: Dlinza pinwheel (Trachycystis clifdeni)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The Dlinza pinwheel has a line of bristles round its shell!

The exceptionally striking Dlinza pinwheel is a small species of snail that is found in only the Dlinza Forest in South Africa. Its name comes from the unusual whorl of bristles that radiate out from the edge of its shell, and resemble a Catherine wheel or pinwheel firework. The fragile, almost translucent pale-brown shell is a spiral shape with up to five whorls. In its coastal forest home, the Dlinza pinwheel can be found beneath leaves, under fallen logs, in leaf-litter and sometimes in damp, swampy areas. The Dlinza pinwheel is so rare that nothing is known of its feeding behaviour or reproductive biology.

The single forest where this species lives is officially protected, which offers some protection to this tiny snail. Nevertheless, the small and exposed nature of its home means that this rare and fascinating snail remains somewhat helpless to the changing world around it, and a single extreme weather event could potentially wipe out the whole population. More research into the ecology and behaviour of this small but captivating species may help unearth valuable information to help guide appropriate conservation action and bring the diminutive ‘pinwheel’ back from the brink of extinction.

Find out more about the organisation in charge of conserving the Dlinza forest: Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife

View the Dlinza pinwheel on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Jan 27
American burying beetle image

American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus)

Species: American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus)

Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

Interesting Fact: The American burying beetle buries a whole carcass to feed its young!

The largest carrion beetle in North America, the American burying beetle is an attractive species with bright orange markings. These beetles are named for their specialised mechanism of parental care that involves providing the growing larvae with carrion upon which to feed. At night, beetle pairs will locate a suitable carcass and then cooperate to bury it in the soil, thus protecting their find from competition with other species. Once the carcass is beneath the soil, the beetles strip away the fur or feathers and produce a compact ball; the female then lays her eggs in a chamber created above the carcass. Unusually for insects, the parents both remain to provide for the larvae after they have hatched, regurgitating food for the growing grubs until they are able to feed for themselves. Roughly a week later, the larvae pupate in the soil nearby, having consumed the entire food supply; they will emerge as adults around a month later and overwinter in this stage.

The American burying beetle has disappeared from much of its former range, with one of the major causes of the decline believed to be loss and fragmentation of available habitat. This species is now being monitored, with plans to breed it in captivity and reintroduce it in the future.

Find out more about the American burying beetle from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

View images of the American burying beetle on ARKive.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 23

Survival logo

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing Survival character

Name: Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)


Status – Endangered (EN)

Wingspan – Up to 28 centimetres

Interesting Fact:

An enormous wingspan of up to 28 centimetres earns this magnificently vibrant insect the title of being the world’s biggest butterfly. Highly specialised, it feeds and reproduces on a single species of toxic vine, making the caterpillars distasteful to predators, and if consumed can cause severe vomiting.

Where am I found?

Found only in the lowland rainforests of northern Papua New Guinea, east of the Owen Stanley Mountains, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing has an extremely small range.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

What do I eat?

Both the adult butterfly and the caterpillar feed only from the vine species Aristolochia schlechteri.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

How do I live?

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing lays a single egg on the underside of one of the vine leaves and after 11 to 13 days the caterpillar hatches and eats almost constantly, growing rapidly. The vine contains a toxic substance which, although not poisonous to the caterpillar, makes it distasteful to potential predators, and may cause severe vomiting.

The caterpillar’s rapid growth is accompanied by six moults, in which the caterpillar grows new skin and sheds the former, before forming a chrysalis, in which metamorphosis takes place over a period of 40 to 45 days.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

Why am I threatened?

As one of the world’s most beautiful butterflies, Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is extremely attractive to collectors. Fetching thousands of dollars per butterfly, this rare species has been severely over harvested.

However, the greatest threat to Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is the loss of its lowland rainforest habitat. Historically, forests were cleared for farming and logging, and a vast area was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Lamingtonin 1951. Today, the main cause of forest loss is the expansion of the palm oil industry, and the development of rubber and cocoa plantations.

Queen Alexandra’s birdwing photo

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