Butterflies evoke a colorful image; lively, mysterious, and delicate, they are loved by poets and scientists alike because they remind us of nature’s multifaceted beauty. There are about 17,500 species of butterflies in the world, 750 of which are in the US. Each one of them adds a dash of color and a sense of wonder to our world.
But butterflies’ function go way beyond the aesthetic. Birds and other animals who plan their mating seasons around when caterpillars are the most abundant will suffer; flowers and plants that majorly rely on butterflies to pollinate will also see a decline in reproductive size.
There’s more: butterflies are also a sensitive indicator of wildlife and ecological health. They react quickly to changes in the environment and can act as early warning signs for waning biodiversity. A large butterfly population usually implies a healthy, balanced ecosystem; on the flip side, a quickly declining population implies stress — and it’s already happened.
As of today, the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed over 20 species of butterflies as endangered in the US alone. When we think of endangered species we tend to think of elephants and sea turtles, but butterflies make up just as important a link in the food chain as they do. Find out how you can help them by visiting the Butterfly Conservation for instructions on how to donate, or what to plant in your own garden so that it provides a habitat for them.