HAMPSHIRE wildlife expert Chris Packham is urging fellow wildlife lovers to help him discover if the county is witnessing a once-in-a-decade spectacle.

Unusually large numbers of Painted Lady butterflies have been spotted in mainland Europe in the past few weeks and many are now arriving in the UK.

Around 50 sightings have already been reported in various parts of Hampshire, including Winchester, Southampton and the New Forest.

New Forest Post:

The brightly-coloured butterfly often migrates from the continent during the summer but once every ten years millions arrive en masse.

Chris, vice-president of Butterfly Conservation, is calling on nature lovers to take part in the Big Butterfly Count to help discover if the UK is seeing a "Painted Lady year".

The last mass immigration took place in 2009, when around 11 million butterflies made their way over.

Chris, who lives in the New Forest, said: "The Painted Lady migration is one of the wonders of the natural world.

"Travelling at speeds of up to 30mph these seemingly fragile creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year."

New Forest Post:

Referring to the large number of sightings in Europe in spring and early summer he added: "The signs are looking very promising. This could be a very good year for the Painted Lady, with high numbers already being recorded across the UK.

“The butterfly can turn up anywhere so please look out for them – you could be witnessing a once-in-a-decade phenomenon.”

People are being encouraged to conduct a count in their gardens and local parks. Alternatively they can do so while walking their dog or attending one of several events taking place across the region, including one at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey on August 2.

There will also be a guided butterfly walk at Broughton Down near Stockbridge on August 11.

The Big Butterfly Count runs until August 11. Sightings should be submitted by going online and visiting bigbutterflycount.org.