I’ve been reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” story to my grandson, Max. After the butterfly comes out of her cocoon, together we “wave” the open book as we delight in the beautiful wings of this transformed caterpillar.
Neither Max nor I understand how this change works. I also didn’t know that 75% of known insects go through a four-stage metamorphosis—egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Evolution is amazing! You can learn more here.
How is climate change, caused by excessive and increasing human carbon emissions, affecting our butterflies? Drought reduces the nectar that flowering plants produce and that means less food for butterflies. Wildfires not only kill butterflies but also the vegetation sustaining them.
“Warmer weather makes the eggs, caterpillars and pupae of the butterfly more susceptible to disease. Mild weather also raises metabolism, which can result in butterflies running out of energy before they complete development.” This is why since 1990 in the United States the butterfly population has declined by a billion lives.
(Environmental Defense Foundation, www.edf.org)
This spring and summer watch for the butterflies flying around near your home. Observe their size, color, and the flowers or blossoms they are visiting. Can you identify their species online? For help click on
One more fact: about one-third of the food we eat depends on butterflies for pollination. Ensuring butterfly survival is crucial for human survival.
Max and I invite you to join us in learning about butterflies. They use their antennae to smell and have taste buds on their tongues. They communicate with each other by releasing chemicals called pheromones and by making sounds with their wings. At night and on cloudy days, butterflies hang upside down from leaves or twigs.
By watching the butterflies near our homes, we can identify flowers, shrubs, and trees that they rely on for food and shelter. If we plant more of these species, most likely we will find more butterflies sharing our living-world. And knowing more about them will strengthen our relationships with the lives they are sharing with us.
Where Max and I live the city supports planting milkweed in parks and by residents, as Monarch butterflies in the summer lay their eggs on milkweed.The milkweed leaves nourish the larvae of Monarch butterflies. We make this choice not only to help sustain butterflies and our food supply, but also for the sheer delight of watching and learning more about butterflies.
Are there support efforts in your community to increase its butterfly population? Might this eco-choice be a good match for you? And perhaps for your children and grandchildren?