Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 29, 2012

Butterflies As Ecological Barometers

Meadow Brown by Sandy Steinman

Butterflies are not just pretty to look at. They say much about what is happening in the environment. A recent report by Butterfly Conservation reported that ” 72 per cent of butterfly and moth species have declined in the last ten years, and 54 per cent have decreased in the UK.” Butterflies are very sensitive to environmental changes and are thus good early indicators of environmental problems. They are the best monitored group of insects in the world and are good warning beacons of declining wildlife and plant populations.

U.K. butterflies are at an all time low the past three years due to poor weather. A decline in butterfly population also impacts other species who depend on the caterpillars as a food source, such as Blue Tits, Jays and Sparrow. Plants are also affected by the declining  butterfly population as they are major pollinators of both wild and cultivated plants.

A warm summer could help reverse some of  the population decline in the UK but there are also human actions that can help decrease the decline of butterfly populations. These include:

  • Creating garden areas that are open and sunny yet still have shelter such as trees and shrubs
  • Growing butterfly food plants
  • Reducing use of pesticides

Read more at:  Why we all need to worry about the decline in native butterflies – The Ecologist.



  1. I wonder if that’s peculiar to the U.K.


    • The article was limited to the UK but I would be surprised if was a unique phenomena to only there. They are probably just better than most other countries at documenting what is happening in nature.


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