When we grew up the world was all magic and still full of beauty,
The butterflies flew high and the flowers grew tall.
But like canaries in a coal mine without light or air or freedom,
When their world came under stress, the time of death they heard call.
Technological agriculture's destruction of the worlds balance and flow,
Undermines natures resources essential for our wildlife to grow.
And the loss of many countless species will be catastrophic for mankind even so,
As these ecosystem pollinators brought essential plant-life profusion which medical research did know.
In England since the scientific 1970s five species of butterfly have already become extinct,
The remaining 54 diminish faster than any other birds or plant species interlinked.
Yet only now are they recognized as irreplaceable indicators of environmental change,
And as representatives for the crucial diversity of the wildlife community free range.
Hundreds of butterflies, beetles and dragonflies now at risk of vanishing all across Europe,
With almost one-third of 435 butterfly species suffering retrogression closeup,
Loss of environments caused by intensive farming, climate change and tourism destroying their natural habitats strange,
Irrespective of their significant role as pollinators in the ecosystems which they arrange.
And of the American butterflies and of their wild milkweed,
Home of The Monarch butterflies caterpillar, the butterflies seed.
The milkweed has also suffered since genetic alterations were introduced to our crop feed,
The purpose of this biotechnology to kill all except the crop that we need.
But more than just milkweed and other weeds have languished and decayed-
As The Duke of Burgundy, The Grayling, and Greenweed, The Large Blue, Speckled Footman and Painted Lady are all afraid,
Chasing the Large Copper of Ireland, the Giant Swallowtail from Jamaica, the Atewa of Ghana, American Silverspot and Apollo from the Alps to their ultimate end,
We face an ever silent spring as our neighbors and companions, the creatures who peopled our world endure a downtrend.
Yet some believe in a world teeming with life,
And establish Geo-dome sanctuaries amidst the wreckage of this modern strife,
Legally protected lands of untrammeled natural diversity
Respite for natures finite species to shelter from our adversity.
Acting as guardians of this new day of bio-diverse global harmony,
To protect our common heritage from some sterile future ahead,
Helping all the people understand the connection between the creatures and the planet,
How the butterflies are integral, the earths freedom worth more than farmstead.
As a symbol of our spirits and transformation since very ancient times,
The butterfly or soul-mind according to the Greeks sacred sign,
Of life after death as crawling caterpillar gives birth to flying grace,
So our souls are called now, to save this ethereal race.
And on this small earth we've got to learn to live together....
Although we're wearing different faces and we fly with different feather,
If we can save the butterflies, and see the wildness rebound,
We can also save ourselves, lets join the Butterfly Ball and turn this world around.
c. Celestial Elf 2011
Once there were swarms of butterfly's, even as recently as the 1970's butterfly's were widespread and populous, but more recently you will be lucky to see one or two compared with the riches that previously adorned our countrysides, river-ways, forests, fields and skies..
In 1892, SG Castle Russell wrote of his walk through The New Forest, South England: "Butterflies alarmed by my approach arose in immense numbers to take refuge in the trees above. They were so thick that I could hardly see ahead and indeed resembled a fall of brown leaves."
A few centuries earlier, Richard Turpyn recorded a probable mass migration to or from Britain in his Chronicles of Calais during the reigns of Henry VII and VIII: "an innumerable swarme of whit buttarflyes ... so thicke as flakes of snowe" that they blotted out views of Calais for workers in fields beyond the town.( Patrick Barkham, The Guardian UK.)
Whilst the collecting of British butterfly's has now ceased to be acceptable, yet butterfly populations have continued to plummet.
Industrial agriculture and the loss of 97% of England's natural grasslands and wildflower meadows, planting of conifers or letting our broadleaved woodlands become too overgrown for woodland flowers, plus the ever increasing sprawl of motorways and urban development have contributed significantly to this demise..
In addition, climate change makes it all the more complicated, because as well as new predators, new diseases do destroy native trees, flowers and insects that butterfly's depended on.
Alien and Invasive weeds also crowd out butterfly food plants, thus depriving the survivors of both home and sustenance.
The United Kingdom's largest native butterfly, The Swallowtail, was easily found all across the fens of East Anglia, until the draining of these wetlands for agriculture had caused its extinction, it is now confined to the Norfolk Broads.
The Pearl-Bordered Fritillary which was known as the 'Woodman's Friend' because it would follow foresters around as they coppiced or cut down patches of trees because they were attracted to the flowers that blossomed in the freshly cut glades, has also undergone a dramatic decline since this traditional way of 'harvesting' wood has died out.
But even before climate change, another man-made event, the introduction of the rabbit-killing disease myxomatosis in the 1950s, caused the decline of many grassland butterfly's which had relied on large rabbit populations to keep the grasslands short and full of flowers.
The last species to become extinct in Britain was The Large Blue (Maculinea arion) in 1979, however in the 1980s conservationists brought stock from Sweden and successfully re-established the butterfly on a small field on the edge of Dartmoor. Professor Thomas, the man responsible for this return of the Large Blue butterfly to Britain after having worked out vital aspects of its unique lifestyle – specifically that the caterpillar is taken into an ant's nest to be reared by the ants – has stated "What is bad for butterfly's is bad for all species – including our own.
( The Independent UK )
Other and less fortunate Species that have become extinct in the UK include;
The Mazarine Blue (Polyommatus semiargus) a small butterfly still found across Europe which feeds on red clover. The last colony in Britain died out in 1904.
The Black-Veined White (Aporia crataegi) still common in Europe, this relative of the Large and Small Whites has been extinct in the UK since 1925, perhaps because of the increase in agricultural chemical useage at that time.
The Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) which was very common in Southern England until after the war, became extinct after Dutch Elm disease destroyed its main food source.
Around the wider world the story is much the same, as the Large Copper of Ireland, the Giant Swallowtail from Jamaica, the Atewa of Ghana, the American Silverspot and the Apollo from the Alps have all become extinct.
In The United States of America the Monarch butterfly also faces drastic reductions following destruction of their milkweed seeding plant due to bio technological agricultural chemicals used in killing the non crop weed.
The amazing Monarch butterfly's which migrate southward in the autumn to places where the climate is less extreme, and are guided by the sun's orbit as they travel through North America, moving at a pace of about almost 50 miles a day, although some are thought to have flown up to 80 miles in a day. At the end of October and the beginning of November, after traveling two months, these remarkable butterfly's settle into hibernation colonies in the mountains of central Mexico, where they spend the winter hibernating.
On a brighter note,
We have finally made a beginning in conserving the right kind of Eco-systems for these fragile species and have even begun creating bio diversity areas to protect and nurture them.
Sir David Attenborough the BBC's Natural history broadcaster launched in 2008 a £25m conservation project to reverse the 'silent natural disaster' that is threatening butterfly species across the UK.
This project, the Butterfly World, is the world's biggest butterfly house and has approximately 10,000 tropical butterflies of 250 species flying under its dome at any one time in the world's largest such display, in addition to extensive gardens and meadows to attract native British species, as well as education and research facilities. ( Butterfly World )
How we can all play a role in preserving these important and beautiful creatures ?
Butterfly's visit gardens to drink nectar from flowers and many nectar producing plants are hardy perennials which are easy to grow.
The most direct method by which any budding Lepidopterist may support the reverse in butterfly populations then, is to plant and encourage suitable nectar producing plants.
A selection of Perfect for Pollinators plants
Here is a selection of 10 wild and 10 garden plants :
Wild plants• Achillea millefolium (common yarrow)
• Cantaurea scabiosa (greater knapweed)
• Digitalis purpurea (common foxglove)
• Eupatorium cannabinum (hemp agrimony)
• Lonicera periclymenum (common honeysuckle)
• Origanum vulgare (wild marjoram)
• Thymus pulegioides (large thyme)
• Trifolium repens (white clover)
• Verbascum nigrum (dark mullein)
• Viburnum opulus (guelder rose)
Garden plants• Caryopteris x clandonensis (caryopteris)
• Dianthus barbatus (sweet william)
• Hesperis matronalis (dame’s violet)
• Hyssopus officinalis (hyssop)
• Jasminum officinale (common jasmine)
• Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender)
• Lychnis coronaria (rose campion)
• Monarda didyma (bergamot or bee balm)
• Verbena bonariensis (purple top)
• Weigela florida (weigelia)