Butterflies Need Our Help
Butterflies Are Important
Butterflies are beautiful creatures who most of us love seeing flying through the air and fluttering from flower to flower. They also serve many important purposes in our environment.
Did you know that butterflies are…..
1) Pollinators: Butterflies act as major pollinators of plants. Without them and other important pollinating insects — like bees—flying around, there will be a significant decline in the plants we rely on for food and for beauty.
2) Food Sources: Butterflies are key food sources for various animals, such as birds, bats, and lizards. As butterfly populations shrink, so too will populations of these other animals as well as predators higher up on the food chain, potentially collapsing entire ecosystems.
3) Signals of Environmental Health: Many see butterflies as an important sign of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems. Butterflies react extremely quickly to even minor changes in the environment, making them both a good indicator of life in particular habitats and providing an early warning system for changes with other wildlife.
Their Numbers Are Declining
There has been a 53% decrease in butterfly populations worldwide over the last decade. Many types of butterflies are at risk of dying out in the next few decades. You may have heard about the dramatic decline in the very popular Monarch butterfly population size, especially on the West Coast. According to the Xerces Society, “The Monarch population in California has gone from millions of butterflies to hundreds of thousands and now, possibly, mere tens of thousands.” Several of the issues facing Monarchs also threaten other butterfly species as well.
Florida has approximately 200 butterfly species, including a high concentration of rare butterflies. Yet, Florida’s butterfly population is being threatened, with 19 species especially considered to be in danger (imperiled) in South Florida, as both the numbers and diversity are declining due to many different factors. According to Zoo Miami, there are more imperiled butterflies in South Florida than any other region in the country.
The Imperiled Butterflies of Florida Working Group (IBWG) aims to address this situation by collaborating on butterfly conservation efforts in Florida.
The Main Threats to Butterflies
Loss of Habitats: Butterflies are losing their habitats due to Florida’s rapid population expansion.
Climate Change: The rising temperatures and higher sea levels associated with climate change threaten both host plants as well as fragile eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies. Higher temperatures may also be driving butterflies to breed in areas further north which means butterfly migration routes to Florida could be getting longer and therefore more difficult.
Pesticides: Pesticides – chemicals that are used to get rid of pests – are harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects.
Herbicides: Individual homeowners, farmers, and landscapers also use other chemicals (herbicides) that get rid of weeds. Some of these very weeds, like milkweed, are the sole food source for caterpillars.
Non-native Plants. The increasing use of non-native plants is crowding out the native plants that butterflies depend upon. Some non-native species become invasive requiring aggressive trimming which eliminates new flower growth and eliminating wildflowers, harming developing eggs as well as reducing nutrient sources for caterpillars and nectar sources for butterflies.
While many threats require longer-term solutions, there is an opportunity to have a relatively immediate impact on several of these threats to protect butterflies in South Florida. Let’s start today! ONE PLANT AT A TIME