TThe British are remarkably lucky, as they are spoken lepidopterally: some of the most common butterflies to inhabit the country are stunningly beautiful. The peacock, with its stunning four eyes perched on wings of burgundy velvet, is a delightful sight to dazzle itself with its open wings. The unassuming common blue, sometimes seen in city parks, has a delicate upper wing resembling the color of an early summer sky and a lower wing mottled with dots and spots, like characters in a language yet to be deciphered. Or there is the Painted Lady – a large and beautiful checkerboard pattern of amber, chestnut, and white spots. An immigrant to British shores, he travels from southern Europe and North Africa every spring. These distinguished travelers are now beginning to cross the English Channel, the last leg of an epic seemingly impossible journey. In the fall, their offspring fly south.
But all is not well for the British butterflies. Britain has – depending on how you count it – 58 species (compared to 2,500 or so moths). Research by the Butterfly Conservation charity found that 24 of them are now threatened. The downward trend in numbers is long-term: the serious decline began after World War II, when intensive farming methods were introduced. Unpredictable harsh weather patterns and the use of nitrate fertilizers (which encourage grass on farmland to grow thick and lush, while butterflies often prefer it few and short) also have a malign effect.
The little fox with its orange, yellow, and black speckled wings and bright blue limbs has been numerous for 40 years, clustered near Buddhist flowers. But in the 1990s the population collapsed, a phenomenon linked to the arrival of the parasitic fly in Britain. Stormia Bella, which, like the little turtle itself, lays its eggs on nettle leaves. Larvae eat eggs of flies with greens. Then the larvae hatch from the larvae’s intestines and eat them from the inside, killing them. Arrival Stormia Bella In the UK it may be a result of rising temperatures.
Of particular concern to butterfly conservation experts is the fact that some species—including Adonis Blues, Chalk Hill Blues, and Silver-spotted Skippers, which declined almost fatally in the early 1980s but then responded well to habitat restoration efforts—have suffered setbacks in Recent years, they are returned to the list of vulnerable groups. Conservationists must confront the fact that their conservation methods may not work for much longer in the context of the climate emergency. Increased weather phenomena can seriously affect butterfly populations year after year. No matter how carefully the habitat is maintained, when populations are declining, they can find it difficult to recover when butterflies are effectively confined to isolated areas of protected habitat.
Butterflies are the tip of the iceberg, a small indication that biologist Professor Dave Goulson called the “insect apocalypse”. We need insects: they are pollinators, food for other animals, and an essential part of the way the world works. The word “insect” is the ancient Greek word for insect “not in vain” spirit. Which literally means “soul”.