Butterflies the Pretty Pollinators
Butterflies: the Pretty Pollinators
You’d have to look hard to find a down side to butterflies.
Few cause damage to crops or humans, for instance.
On the positive side, butterflies are:
- Important pollinators;
- Important components of the food chain;
- Colorful, aesthetically pleasing, fun to watch; and
- Favorites of children and adults alike.
The role of pollination of U.S. crops is not small potatoes. From almonds to
alfalfa to apples, pollinators are key to the production of about 150 food crops
worth an estimated $10 billion each year. About 218,000 of the world’s 250,000
flowering plants, including 80 percent of the world’s species of food plants,
rely on pollinators to reproduce.
Butterfly habitat destruction. The main threat to butterflies is the
destruction and loss of their habitats. The channelization of riparian areas,
draining of wetlands, lowering of water tables, growth of cities, and
intensification of agriculture all contribute to this habitat loss. Widespread
use of pesticides may also threaten healthy butterfly populations.
Nectar corridors. Scientists are particularly concerned about habitat loss in
“nectar corridors.” These corridors are migratory routes that pollinators follow
in order to take advantage of a sequence of plants coming into bloom along a
south-to-north gradient in the spring and the reverse in the fall. This habitat
is critical to migrating Monarch butterflies, as well as hummingbirds, bats, and
other nectar-dependent migratory animals.
Butterfly habitat. Adult butterflies rely on nectar, while developing
caterpillars need leaves and foliage. Both get their water from plants. A
variety of native wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses interspersed across
the landscape offers good butterfly habitat. Consider planting wildflower
gardens, roadsides, and idle areas with native, nectar-producing plants,
legumes, and grasses.
For more information about conservation practices that can improve wildlife
habitat on your land, stop at the
local NRCS office.
Did you know....
The Monarch butterfly journeys more than 2,000 miles to winter in warmer
climates. This long migration makes the Monarch somewhat different from most
butterflies, which hibernate.