Edition 2023

Foto omschrijving: Two women counting butterflies in a garden.

How are the dragonflies and butterflies doing?

Butterfly populations in the Netherlands have nearly halved since 1992. Dragonfly numbers rose up to 2007, but stagnated after that. One of the reasons for this is that the quality of habitats for butterflies and dragonflies has deteriorated more and more.

Hoe gaat het met de libellen en dagvlinders? LibellenDragonflies 2022 1992 DagvlindersButterflies

Between 1991 and 2007, the total area in the Netherlands in which dragonflies occur doubled in size. This does not mean that all dragonflies together had twice as much room. For example: one species may live in a small area that has quadrupled in size, while another has a large area that remains unchanged. The end result is a doubling in area on average.

After 2007, the expansion halted. Dragonflies living in or near running water were seen in more locations. Indeed, many dragonfly species started to do better, mainly the result of cleaner water and nature-friendly banks. Added to this, climate change has resulted in more species from southern regions migrating to the Netherlands. Dragonflies such as the emperor, lesser emperor and the scarlet dragonfly are suited to warmer temperatures and are now more widespread than previously.

Water quality vital for dragonflies

However, areas where dragonflies occurred did not continue to grow: the water quality in many locations is not sufficient and is no longer improving. In some places it is even deteriorating. As a result, many common species, such as the common bluetail, have been declining in recent years. Many smaller dragonflies are predated by larger species or pushed out of their habitats.

Dragonflies (1991=100)
Observation Trend Confidence interval (low) Confidence interval (high)
1992 110 100 93 - 107 93 - 107
1993 103 106 100 - 111 100 - 111
1994 99 112 107 - 117 107 - 117
1995 110 117 113 - 122 113 - 122
1996 126 123 120 - 127 120 - 127
1997 133 130 126 - 133 126 - 133
1998 155 136 133 - 139 133 - 139
1999 146 142 138 - 145 138 - 145
2000 147 148 144 - 152 144 - 152
2001 144 155 151 - 158 151 - 158
2002 141 161 157 - 164 157 - 164
2003 160 167 163 - 170 163 - 170
2004 188 172 169 - 176 169 - 176
2005 176 178 175 - 181 175 - 181
2006 180 182 180 - 186 180 - 186
2007 197 186 183 - 189 183 - 189
2008 200 188 185 - 191 185 - 191
2009 196 189 186 - 191 186 - 191
2010 191 188 185 - 191 185 - 191
2011 186 188 185 - 191 185 - 191
2012 178 187 184 - 190 184 - 190
2013 180 185 182 - 188 182 - 188
2014 180 183 181 - 185 181 - 185
2015 174 182 179 - 184 179 - 184
2016 181 181 179 - 183 179 - 183
2017 171 180 178 - 182 178 - 182
2018 173 180 178 - 181 178 - 181
2019 190 179 177 - 181 177 - 181
2020 181 179 177 - 181 177 - 181
2021 185 179 176 - 181 176 - 181
2022 178 179 176 - 182 176 - 182
31 175 179 175 - 183 175 - 183

Fewer butterflies

Butterfly numbers have nearly halved since 1992. This is true for most species and nearly all habitats. The reason for this is the reduced area of butterfly habitats. But atmospheric nitrogen in nature areas is also detrimental to these creatures. Excess nitrogen results in fewer or no plants attractive to butterflies. For years now, agricultural areas have included little herb-rich grassland. As a result, hardly any butterflies occur on farmland. Moreover, species such as the ringlet and tree grayling have difficulty surviving the heavy summer downpours and drought periods that are increasing due to climate change.

A few rare species, such as the scarce large blue, are doing better. This is because their habitats have been restored in recent years. Populations of some woodland species, such as the wood white and the white admiral are also growing. This is the result of the recent warmer summers and maturing woodland areas.

Butterflies (1992=100)
Observation Trend Confidence interval (low) Confidence interval (high)
1992 107 100 92 - 109 92 - 109
1993 94 94 87 - 100 87 - 100
1994 71 88 83 - 94 83 - 94
1995 93 84 80 - 87 80 - 87
1996 85 79 76 - 82 76 - 82
1997 79 76 73 - 78 73 - 78
1998 76 73 70 - 75 70 - 75
1999 58 70 68 - 72 68 - 72
2000 76 68 65 - 70 65 - 70
2001 54 65 63 - 68 63 - 68
2002 68 64 62 - 66 62 - 66
2003 80 62 60 - 64 60 - 64
2004 58 62 60 - 63 60 - 63
2005 66 61 60 - 63 60 - 63
2006 61 62 60 - 63 60 - 63
2007 49 62 60 - 64 60 - 64
2008 47 62 61 - 64 61 - 64
2009 78 64 62 - 65 62 - 65
2010 82 65 63 - 66 63 - 66
2011 74 66 64 - 67 64 - 67
2012 48 66 65 - 68 65 - 68
2013 73 67 65 - 68 65 - 68
2014 81 67 65 - 68 65 - 68
2015 64 66 65 - 68 65 - 68
2016 59 65 64 - 67 64 - 67
2017 75 64 63 - 65 63 - 65
2018 67 63 62 - 64 62 - 64
2019 56 61 60 - 62 60 - 62
2020 55 59 57 - 60 57 - 60
2021 50 56 55 - 58 55 - 58
2022 61 54 52 - 55 52 - 55

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Contributors

Concept & image editor

Irene van Kuik, Janneke Hendriks, Richard Jollie

With thanks to Hendrik Zuidhoek

Editors

Annelie Hakkenes (final editing)

Elma Wobma (general project leader)

Erik van den Berg

Gert Jan Wijma

Karolien van Wijk

Michel van Kooten

Paul de Winden

Saskia Stavenuiter

Sidney Vergouw

Translators

Gabriëlle de Vet, Lieneke Hoeksma, Frans Dinnissen

Contributions

Ronald van der Bie

We thank all CBS colleagues who have contributed to this edition.