Butterflies Are Forced to Change Their Lifecycle

Butterflies prefer conditions to be neither too hot nor too cold, but “just right.” Because of climate change, the temperature at any given time of summer is getting warmer, thus leaving butterflies with the challenge of how to remain in their optimal temperature window.

The Next Web informs that one of the main ways in which species are achieving this is by changing the time of year at which they are active, which is called phenology. When an animal or plant starts to do things earlier in the year it is said to be “advancing its phenology.”

These advances have been observed already in a wide range of butterflies and moths. In Britain, as the average spring temperature has increased by roughly 0.5°C over the past 20 years, species have advanced by between three days and a week on average, to keep track of cooler temperatures.

However, not all the species are able to adapt to climate change. Therefore, there is a need to protect moths and butterflies from climate change not only for the sake of the butterflies and moths themselves – these species also play a number of important roles in our ecosystems. Their caterpillars consume vast quantities of plant material, and in turn act as prey for birds, bats, and other small mammals, while moths even act as pollinators of a surprisingly wide range of plant species, possibly including some important crops.

According to Butterfly Conservation, around two-thirds of butterfly species have declined in the UK over the past 40 years. If this trend continues, it might have unpredictable knock-on effects on other species in the ecosystem.


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