Seeing Fewer Butterflies? Blame Extreme Weather

Have you noticed fewer butterflies floating this year? Researchers in the UK think they know the culprit for the population decline: extreme weather conditions.

It’s not exactly new news that climate change has an impact on butterflies. In the past, Care2 has detailed the kind of danger global warming poses to the beautiful insects:

That research focuses on the long-term effects that climate change has on butterflies, however. The recently published research out of the University of East Anglia takes a different approach, checking to see how extreme weather conditions – a direct consequence of climate change – can more immediately impact the butterfly’s numbers.

Indeed, the researchers were able to confirm that extreme weather conditions like heavy rainstorms, heat waves and droughts had an impact on butterflies. For example, lots of precipitation harmed a butterfly’s chance of survival while still in the cocoon.

Even more detrimental is heat in the wintertime. Since butterflies typically go away during the cold months – either hibernating, reentering a cocoon or transitioning to a caterpillar, depending on the species and habitat – the cold weather is a signal to stay in this altered form until the climate cooperates.

When a winter gets unseasonably warm, however, it triggers butterflies to return as if it’s spring. When cold temperatures return, though, as they typically do during the winter months, the butterflies are vulnerable to freezing.

The researchers are careful to note that not all extreme weather conditions pose a threat to butterflies. Some conditions can actually benefit them. According to their data, increased heat actually improved the survival rate of butterflies in adult butterfly form.

“The study has demonstrated previously unknown sensitivities of our UK butterflies to extreme climatic events, which are becoming more frequent with climate change,” said researcher Osgur McDermott-Long.

McDermott-Long stressed the need to research this topic further in order to determine what can be done to help butterflies in light of these variables. Despite the benefits of a warm summer, they suspect that the warm and wet winters will continue to be more costly to butterfly species, meaning that climate change is a net negative for the insect.

While we wait on subsequent studies, if you want to do your part to save the butterflies, the first obvious step is to make lifestyle choices that will reduce your carbon footprint.

Beyond that, Care2 has a list of other suggestions of things you can do to help the butterflies. Climate change might decrease their chance at survival, but let’s not give up on them!

Photo credit: Thinkstock

96 comments

Monica D
Monica D6 months ago

We need to significantly reduce fossil fuel use.

SEND
Marcin J
Marcin J6 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fook8 months ago

thanks

SEND
Simon L
Simon L8 months ago

ty

SEND
Tin Ling L
Tin Ling L8 months ago

tks

SEND
Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla9 months ago

Yeah, I don't think there is any hope for animals/nature when you have 7 BILLION people....

SEND
Anne H
Anne H10 months ago

Interested

SEND
Marie W.
Marie W10 months ago

Overpopulation is the problem.

SEND
natasha salgado
Past Member 11 months ago

Having 7 plus billion people is decimating all our wildlife #'s not to mention destroying our global forests.

SEND
Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus11 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND