Save our butterflies

2 June 2018 in national Butterfly Education and Awareness day (BEAD) so I thought I’d do a little research.

Butterflies are pretty great

butterfly-header-orange

They have four life stages – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. Many cultures associate the butterfly with the soul and because of their beauty in transformation they’re regarded as a symbol of resurrection in Christian religion. So if you dream about a butterfly it’s a symbol of alteration, life force, happiness or spirit.

In adulthood they have incredibly striking colourful wings that can act as camouflage, a warning signal or attraction for a mate. Made up of thousands of tiny scales, their wings are very delicate to the touch – so you shouldn’t try holding them in case some of their scales fall off.

Just admire them from afar even though they’re clearly flapping around asking you to play with them.

We have 50 kinds of butterflies in Britain

Who would have thought we have so many? And they all have fantastic names. You can see the full list at www.britishbutterflies.co.uk but here are the 10 most common (according to bbc.co.uk):

  1. Gatekeeper
  2. Large white
  3. Meadow brown
  4. Small white
  5. Peacock
  6. Small tortoiseshell
  7. Ringlet
  8. Red admiral
  9. Comma
  10. Common blue

Butterflies and our environment

As well as being incredibly pretty (anyone else obsessed with drawing them?) butterflies play a part in making our plant species more resilient. This is because they fly thousands of miles across countries sharing pollen across different plants and encouraging genetic variation (which is what makes the plant species more resilient to disease).

They can also act as a warning signal. Because they have such a short life-span and need varied habitats to survive, the butterfly can tell us when our environment has changed. They’re very sensitive to their habitat so if they’re not happy with where they’re living they unfortunately start to die out – telling us that something needs to change.

Extreme weather is a problem. In Britain there are a few species that are in danger because of recurring years of heavy rain that the butterflies can’t fly out in to get nectar. The opposite side of our extreme weather, droughts, are also predicted to be more common. This will impact the plants that the caterpillar relies on for food. In America the Monarch butterfly is in danger because of the wet weather, use of pesticides and logging.

What can we do to help butterflies?

  1. Do your bit to prevent climate change
    (e.g reducing your fossil fuels and getting power from green energy)
    DavidSuzuki.org has a simple list of things we can do.
  2. Have a butterfly friendly garden
    Use plants that have open flowers, or buddleja and have some long grasses to protect larvae.
    More detailed tips can be found at www.discoverwildlife.com
  3. Eat organic food and avoid pesticides
    This will help all kinds of wildlife (and you might feel a little healthier!)
    Look for the soil association organic trademark and find out more at www.onegreenplanet.org

Find out more

As well as the above mentioned websites I checked out theconversation.com for information.

You can download an app to identify butterflies and take part in the great butterfly count at www.bigbutterflycount.org

afbeducation.org announced the first Saturday of every June as Butterfly Education and Awareness day.

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