Hearts Aflutter As Certain Butterflies Make Comeback
April 17, 2019
Not all hope is lost for the world’s important pollinators! A recent study has found butterflies in the UK are making somewhat of a comeback.
The annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) found more than two-thirds of butterfly species were spotted in more abundant numbers last year compared to in 2017.
Two of the rarest species in the area – the Large Blue and Black Hairstreak butterflies – saw a significant increase. Sightings of the Large Blue jumped by 58% from 2017, and the Black Hairstreak by 900%!
There were also more of the Brown Argus, Speckled Wood, Large White, and Small White.
Experts say the boost to some members of the butterfly population is much in part to last summer’s intense heat. The heatwave sent temperatures soaring through most of June and July, making it the hottest summer on record in the UK as a whole.
Not All Good News
Despite the study’s findings, last year was still only an average year for butterflies. Many population numbers are dwindling since records began 43 years ago.
And unfortunately, not all species felt the heat and thrived as a result. The Small Tortoiseshell, the Red Admiral, The Gatekeeper, the Small Skipper, and the Essex Skipper are all on the decline.
Building Happy Habitats
Still, experts say the study shows that in the right habitat, butterflies can do very well and that we can all do our part by making safe havens for them in our yards and on our balconies.
A thriving ecosystem begins with pollinators, and butterflies are important ones. They collect pollen from colorful blooms and spread it from flower to flower.
The following are ways to attract butterflies and keep them happy:
- Plant native wildflower species
- Leave sections of lawn unmown
- Sow milkweed seeds
Whether it be planting a pollinator garden or tracking butterflies, citizens around the world are being encouraged to be mindful of these all-important insects.
In Montreal, Canada, a citizen science program has everyday people looking for milkweed patches and evidence of monarch butterflies, then registering their location on the Mission Monarch website.
The data will help researchers pinpoint the breeding hotspots and implement conservation efforts in those areas.
In Other Butterfly News…
Certain Canadians can expect to see an influx of butterflies this summer as an unusually large migration of painted ladies make their way from California to B.C.
Every year, the butterflies hatch in the deserts of Southern California and fly north. But this summer, more of them are expected to make the journey.
Experts say the mass migration is due to heavy rainfall near the U.S.-Mexico border. The weather conditions led to painted lady butterflies laying eggs in abundance, and the resulting caterpillars have been feasting happily on the so-called ‘Super Bloom’, in which typically barren desert mountainsides are blanketed in poppies and other colorful wildflowers.
The rare event has helped more of the caterpillars make their transformation into butterflies.
Social media is aflutter with many Californians posting videos of the migrating pollinators. Unfortunately, not as many will make it to Canada, and those that do will not live too long before dying off.
Regardless, it’s something butterfly enthusiasts can look forward to.