If you don’t have the time to spare to contribute to the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, but do have 5-6 hours spare per year to help us monitor Ireland’s butterflies, then the Five Visit Monitoring Scheme is for you. This scheme is designed to capture sufficient information from a route to estimate changes in butterfly populations and is analysed in combination with the population information from the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

It is identical to the Irish Butterfly Monitoring Scheme; the only difference being you walk your route just five times per year: twice between 22nd April to 16th June, three times between 1st July and 31st August, leaving a minimum of two weeks between walks.

This approach is also used as part of our Butterfly Atlas 2021 but only in specific locations (High Priority Squares) and for one year only.  Please see the Get Involved section of the Atlas instead if you’d like to change route each year.

What does a monitoring walk ‘look’ like?

Overall, if you have a particular walk you enjoy and have permission to access the area, then wherever you want! As along as it is a minimum of 1 km in length and you can walk the route five times per year, then it will be a valuable contribution to the Five Visit Monitoring Scheme. You should divide your walk up into 5-15 smaller sections e.g. from your front door to the start of the hedgerow, section 1; from the start of the hedgerow to the end of the hedgerow, section 2; etc. Per section, as you walk along you record all the butterfly species and numbers of each you see within 2.5 m either side of yourself and 5 m in front (a 5 m3 recording ‘box’).


Pollard walk
Recording ‘box’ within which all butterflies are counted as part of the Five Visit Monitoring and Irish Butterfly Monitoring Schemes.

Example transect
An example butterfly monitoring transect walk divided into nine sections. Per section, all butterflies are recorded and the % sunshine noted.


Under what conditions should I walk my route?

Recording should be undertaken between 11:00 and 17:00. Clearly, butterflies do fly outside of these times during ideal conditions in the summer, but at other times of year smaller species will be less inclined to fly at cooler morning or evening temperatures and may not be on the wing when you walk.

Only record when weather conditions are suitable for butterfly activity: at temperatures of at least 13°C or above, and at least 60% sunshine (e.g. when 60% of the sky is cloud free). When temperatures are 17°C or above, the % sunshine is no longer a constraint. The wind speed should be less then Beaufort scale 5 (small trees in leaf being to sway).


What should I record each time I walk?

Bring along a notebook or downland and print one of our recording sheets and note:

  • date
  • time you started, time you finished
  • average temperature throughout your walk
  • average wind speed throughout your walk (Beaufort scale 0-6)
  • average wind direction throughout your walk (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW)
  • per section of your walk the % sunshine, the species and numbers of butterflies you see


Where do I submit the information from my walk?

Please register online with the scheme here: https://surveys.biodiversityireland.ie/

Once registered, there’s a full tutorial on how to set-up your walk and enter your records online here: Tutorial for Five Visit Monitoring Scheme

As always, never hesitate to get in touch if you need any help: llysaght@biodiversityireland.ie