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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:

  1. Important pollinators;
  2. Important components of the food chain;
  3. Colorful, aesthetically pleasing, fun to watch; and
  4. 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.

Wildlife Ways

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.