News Column

Butterfly numbers are down this summer

July 25, 2014

By Diane Tennant, The Virginian-Pilot

July 26--If you're missing butterflies this summer, you're not alone.

June and July saw unusually low numbers of every species, said Karen McCurdy, vice president of the Butterfly Society of Virginia.

She blames the weather, particularly the hard rains and cooler temperatures in late spring.

"Butterflies don't like to mate or lay eggs when it's cold and/or rainy," McCurdy said. "I'm hoping that this is just an odd year."

Butterflies also face challenges from habitat degradation, loss of native plants and pesticide use, she said. Monarch butterflies, the most recognizable species, have suffered large population declines.

Monarchs require milkweed plants; their caterpillars will eat nothing else. To encourage more home gardeners to grow the plants, the society will sell a variety of milkweeds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday (while supplies last) at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, which has its own summerlong initiative called Mission Monarch: Project Milkweed.

Old Dominion University is researching native milkweeds and working with local nurseries to increase availability, specifically to support monarch butterflies and other local pollinators.

McCurdy noted that caterpillars are picky eaters. Each species requires a certain type of host plant.

"If you really want to make butterflies happy and keep them in your yard, then you're going to need to have the host plants for them to lay their eggs on so the life cycle can occur," she said. "The good news is the past two weekends we've spotted increasing numbers flying. I'm hopeful that we're finally on the rebound."


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Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)

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