Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Where were the butterflies? 12/09/2020

 

Did you notice that this year butterflies seemed to appear in our gardens later than usual and in fewer numbers?

Where were they in the spring?

  • Did they just arrive late?
  • Are reduced populations cyclical?
  • Did the weather affect their numbers?
  • Will this be a continuing trend – the result of declining habitat, limited food sources, destruction of habitat, and/or increased pesticide use?

Globally, terrestrial insects appear to be declining at a rate of 9% per decade.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered.

Some of the insects most affected are bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies, and damselflies.

Example: Between 2000-2009, the number of widespread butterfly species on farmed land in the UK fell by 58% (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4662585/)

Why Should We Worry?

  1. Insects = Protein (300 times more efficient than cows)

Although insects are near the bottom of the food chain, many creatures depend on them, directly or indirectly, as a food source.

Are they our food of the future?

3,000 ethnic groups in 130 countries already eat 2,086 species of insects. (Ramos-Elorduy, Julieta; Menzel, Peter (1998). Creepy crawly cuisine: the gourmet guide to edible insects)

  1. Insects = pollinators.

The plant world relies on their services. Approximately 80% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects.

Commercial agriculture depends on insects for pollination and crop production. 35% of the world’s crop pollination depends directly or indirectly on insects.  Insect pollinators contribute $29 billion to the US economy

  1. Insects = decomposers

Insects recycle, break down biomass, and generate organic matter that fertilizes plants.

  1. Insects = biological controls

Their value as natural pest control is estimated at $5.4 billion in the U.S. alone

 

Look through the slide presentation about “The Lost Summer of 2020: A Perfect Time to Plant Your Butterfly Garden!” Lost Summer Butterfly Slide Show

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