Care For The Little Ones Among Us

Illustration of insects

Thanks to the Guardian for providing this biologist the platform to explain to us why insects matter so much:

The insect apocalypse: ‘Our world will grind to a halt without them’

Insects have declined by 75% in the past 50 years – and the consequences may soon be catastrophic. Biologist Dave Goulson reveals the vital services they perform

I have been fascinated by insects all my life. One of my earliest memories is of finding, at the age of five or six, some stripy yellow-and-black caterpillars feeding on weeds in the school playground. I put them in my empty lunchbox, and took them home. Eventually they transformed into handsome magenta and black moths. This seemed like magic to me – and still does. I was hooked. Continue reading

Butterfly Farming’s Limits

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Sylvain Cordier/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Costa Rica pioneered butterfly farming in the 1990s, and it has been an important export ever since. It is an export oriented to botanical gardens and other natural attractions where butterflies can be released by the thousands in enclosures; it is also an export that feeds the hunger of collectors. It is not a cure-all as Elizabeth Preston, on our radar again after five years, notes:

What’s Wrong With Butterflies Raised in Captivity?

A study suggests that monarchs bred by enthusiasts were less fit than those that started as caterpillars in the wild.

Monarch butterflies look delicate, but they need to be super-tough to survive their annual migrations. The monarchs of eastern North America may travel thousands of miles to their winter home in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. And, increasingly, they’re not making it, a problem that has been blamed on habitat loss, climate change and pesticides.

In an effort to boost the struggling insect’s numbers, some butterfly enthusiasts buy monarchs raised in captivity or breed their own, then set them free. But research published Wednesday in Biology Letters shows that captive-born monarchs are weaker than wild ones — adding evidence to the arguments of those who warn that releasing them does more harm than good. Continue reading

Butterflies From Another Perspective

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Forest mother-of-pearl
‘It was a painstaking process, holding my breath and sitting perfectly still every time I pressed the shutter release. It seemed to take forever’

Time for a break from the regular news. Here are some visual reminders of why we care for nature, and why we protect it. Thanks to the Guardian for bringing this photographer’s unique technique to our attention in the photo feature titled The butterfly effect: wings in extreme close-up – in pictures:

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Detail of a Malay lacewing butterfly. Photograph: Jake Mosher

Thanks to that feature, I wandered into this commercial project, valorizing the beauty of butterflies, that I can recommend as worth a look:

METAMORPHOSIS

*** Featured in the Royal Photographic Society’s Journal, and also in The Guardian. Please take a look at their photo gallery display here.***

Limited edition, 1 of 1 pieces. When one sells, it will not be reprinted in any size, ever. This is your chance to own collectible, one-of-a-kind pieces of art the likes of which the world has never seen before.

These images are the composition of hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of 4:1 macro photographs of butterfly and moth wings. There is no artificial color, imported designs, or any “drawn” artifacts. This is art and photography intertwined, and these images are only available here. This work has been recognized as entirely unique to me. Continue reading

Join The Butterfly Count

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Sir David Attenborough launching the Big Butterfly Count in July 2017. Photograph: Butterfly Conservation/PA

Thanks to the Guardian for bringing this to our attention:

Sir David Attenborough urges British public to join butterfly count

Veteran broadcaster encourages people to take part in Big Butterfly Count and highlights mental health benefits of wildlife

Watching nature provides “precious breathing space” from the stress of modern life, Sir David Attenborough has said, as he urges people to take part in the world’s biggest butterfly count.

While the UK’s butterflies are basking in the best summer conditions in more than a decade, if the hot weather becomes a drought it could be catastrophic for the insects as plants wither and caterpillars starve.

The public are being encouraged to take part in the Big Butterfly Count over the next three weeks to help experts see how butterflies are faring and to enjoy the mental health benefits of watching wildlife. Continue reading

Butterflies Bear Bucolic Benefits

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Milkweed was first mentioned in these pages  so long ago I had forgotten their importance to Monarch butterflies, a seemingly perennial topic for our contributors. So thanks to Margaret Renkl for keeping that tradition going in her Monday op-ed, and reminding us in the process that while it is not all good news out there, it is also not all bad news:

Monarchs in My Garden, at Last

NASHVILLE — I was pretty proud of myself the spring I planted my first organic garden. It was the mid-1980s, and I was a first-year graduate student in creative writing, a program entirely unrelated to horticultural mastery. But I had taken a college course in environmental biology, and I knew the basics: The more chemicals you use in a garden, the more chemicals you’ll need in the garden. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, more reliable than the seasons.

At my house, companion planting — marigolds in between the broccoli, tomato vines encircling the spinach — would repel bugs the natural way. Any lingering pests would be dispatched by beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantises. One evening I watched happily as cabbage white butterflies flitted over silvery broccoli leaves. Those little white butterflies pausing in the gloaming on the water-beaded broccoli made for a tableau of bucolic harmony. Continue reading

Scotland, Land Of Butterfly Resurgence

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For a second day in a row, a butterfly story catches our attention. Small stories of unexpected good fortune are always welcome:

Rare butterfly spotted in Scotland for the first time since 1884

Elusive and endangered white-letter hairstreak discovered in a field in the Scottish borders could become the 34th species to live and breed in the country Continue reading

A Highway For Monarchs

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Interstate 35, which stretches from Minnesota to Mexico, lies in the heart of the monarchs’ migration route.

Thanks to Janet Marinelli and the team at YaleEnvironment360:

Can the Monarch Highway Help Save a Butterfly Under Siege?

The population of North American monarch butterflies has plummeted from 1 billion to 33 million in just two decades. Now, a project is underway to revive the monarch by making an interstate highway the backbone of efforts to restore its dwindling habitat. Continue reading

Big Butterfly Count Coming Up in UK

Photo from bigbutterflycount.org

Starting this Friday and continuing through the first week of August, the largest survey in the world for butterflies and day-flying moths will take place in the United Kingdom. We’ve featured lepidopterists and citizen scientists here before, including today and for last year’s event, which involved over fifty thousand people counting more than half a million lepidopterans.  It’s great to see such a simple yet complete chart/app to ID the more common butterflies that people may encounter –– I would have really appreciated something like that for Costa Rica! Read more about the project below:

Why count butterflies?

Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses.

That’s why counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature.

Continue reading

Lepidopteran Diversity at Xandari

Over the last month or two one of my goals has been to identify as many of the butterflies and moths–or lepidopterans–that we have here at Xandari. Part of this work involves looking at old photos taken since 2014, when James and I first arrived on property and started taking pictures of wildlife; another element of the job is going out and photographing the lepidopterans in a more determined fashion.

Not an easy task, when butterflies can have such whimsical flight patterns and startle quite easily. Moths are a little simpler to chase because during the day they’re often focused on staying still and hiding out until evening. Continue reading

Butterflies from the Butter-files

As I mentioned in the “flora-file” series (see posts #1 and #2, more are forthcoming), I’m posting a number of photos I collected during my time at Xandari Resort & Spa this summer. Some of these photos aren’t of plants, so I’ve got to think of another punny name for this post featuring butterflies: what about the “butter-files”? It’ll have to work for now! Continue reading

Tamil Lacewing Butterfly

Photo credits : Aparna P

Photo credits: Aparna P

The Tamil Lacewing Butterfly (Scientific name: Cethosia nietneri) is endemic to the  Western Ghats of India and Sri Lanka, where it commonly cuts through the breezes from the months of June to September. Frequent at the onset of monsoon season, the beautiful insect usually disappears by September or October. Catch it while you can! Continue reading

Lepidoptera Diversity in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to some 1200 butterflies and another 8000 species of moths (both diurnal and nocturnal varieties). This astounding diversity is no surprise, given the country’s neotropical climate and its position as a land bridge between North and South America, each home to a plethora of diverse ecosystems. The tremendous number of butterflies that can be seen goes hand-in-hand with the fact that Costa Rica is home to about 4% of the world’s total biodiversity! Of the butterfly species, some of the most famous include Continue reading

Common Grass Yellow Butterfly

Photo credit : Sherif

Photo credit: Sherif

The Common Grass Yellow Butterfly lives up to its name. Found throughout all of India, this lepidopteran flies low and close to the ground in fields, and its wings are a pretty yellow with some subtle patterning. Their larvae feed on several different plants, but generally in the families of the spurges and legumes.  Continue reading

Wild Periyar – Mud Puddling (Butterflies)

Common Blue Bottle; Graphium sarpedon

Mud puddling is a social insect activity usually involving newly hatched males where several butterflies of one or more species gather on moist banks of sand or mud. Mud puddling butterflies often spend a long time on these damp patches, where they suck salts along with water to obtain nutrients. Continue reading

Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe)

The Common Grass Yellow butterfly is one of the most common and abundant butterflies in India recognizable by its bright lemon yellow wings with black bordering on the upper side and brown markings on the lower side. The females are larger than males. These butterflies are found flying close to the ground along grassy patches.Cassia fistula, Cassia lora, Albizzia, Cassia alata, Cassia sothera and Cassia mimosoides are the favorite food plants for this species.

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Crimson Rose Butterfly (Pachliopta hector)

photo by Ramesh Kidangoor

With a wingspan of 80-120 mm, the Crimson Rose Butterfly is one of the most spectacular species of swallowtail. It is commonly found along the Western Ghats, especially in small mountain tops and open plain lands. Ixora, lantana and pagoda flowers are favorite for this butterflies. The upper side of the wings are shining black with red and white markings that include a fine white line outlining the distinctive swallowtail wing shape. Its body is red in colour.

Continue reading