Why should we worry about butterfly ecology? It is not only because butterflies are attractive. They are also important pollinators of our wild flowers. They are one of the first visible indicators of changes in habitats. They are easily spotted and recorded. The decline of butterflies and their habitats in Europe is why studying them and conserving them is important. Listen to David Attenborough on Radio 4’s Today program talking about RSPBs State of Nature report.
The life of the butterfly is short, from only a few days to a couple of weeks. Some species do have a longer life though as the Small Tortoiseshell and the Peacock hibernate as adults and survive into a second season.
Adult butterflies are often brightly coloured, but when they close their wings they can hide from predators, by merging into the background vegetation.
Predators include; birds, frogs, toads and mammals.
Brown butterflies have small eye spots near the edge of each wing, so that if birds peck at them, they will peck on a harmless spot and the butterfly will survive. Whilst the blues and hair streak butterflies have tails with false eyes, so that if birds see these, they will peck at the tails and not the head of the butterfly- allowing the butterfly a greater chance to escape.
Ecology of Butterflies require;
- Adults need suitable flowers which they can feed on for nectar (see Butterflies 3 on our blog.)
- Places such as old ivy clad trees and walls where they can hibernate.
- Small areas of scrub where they can rest on days when it is dull and sleep at night.
- Habitat – adult butterflies have different habitat needs to those of the early stages of butterfly.
- Butterflies – females need to lay their eggs on food plants which are in the right stage of growth, the right size and in the right growing conditions of light and shade.
- The caterpillars require plenty of food to grow.
- They moult several times until eventually they turn into a chrysalis.
The flight of a butterfly may be hundreds of miles; the Painted Lady butterfly flies from the Mediterranean each year; sometimes reaching Scotland if the weather is fair.
Many butterflies have suffered a decline due to cessation of woodland coppice management, loss of woodland edge habitat, lack of ride management and cessation of wild grassland grazing; ploughing up of old grassland and wild flower meadows with intensification of agricultural practices have all led to a decline in butterflies since the late 1950s.
See our next blog on ecology of Butterflies.
To arrange a site visit to find out more on the ecology of butterflies go to our Contact Page or ring 01892 782200. To find out more about the ecology services which Landvision can offer you click on the link.