Lack of butterflies

Anne Kilmer viceroy at
Sun Jul 5 09:21:09 EDT 1998

pjrelf at wrote:
> In article <22929-359C4C9D-2568 at>,
>   bugguy at wrote:
> >
> > I think everyone is experiencing in one form or another a lack of
> > butterflies this year. We here in Rhode Island had a great season last
> > year with many species being recorded for the first time in awhile. For
> > us we had an early spring with lots of butterflies hatching. Then we had
> > almost 20 days of rain, wind and cold weather. Then we had normal temps
> > but no butterflies were to be found. We just got over another 19 day
> > period of rain. What I think happened is that alot of adults hatched
> > early only to be killed by the first period of rain (either by cold or
> > not being able to feed since they don't fly in the rain). This then
> > caused a chain reaction i that no one was breeding thus no larvae.
> > We now have had 2 days without rain and some adults have been sighted
> > but nowhere near as many as last year (or even what was seen with our
> > early spring).
> >
> > David Albaugh
> >
> Here in the UK there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of
> butterflies in recent years.  This has been put down to (a) removal of
> hedgerows and other natural habitats by farmers and land developers,  and (b)
> intensive use of insecticides by farmers.
> Are those problems a cause of the decrease in butterfly population in the US
> as well ??
> Regards.
> Peter Relf,
> Herefordshire, UK. > 
But of course. We never had decent hedgerows, and I wish we did; even 
where fields are crossed with drainage ditches they are kept weed free, 
which means that they are colonized, not by choice natives, but by a low 
class of adventitious weeds, mostly foreign.
	In England, hedgerows can be dated by the number of species of 
shrub and tree that have added themselves to the original hawthorn or 
whatever. There's a nifty little formula. Here in the states, things 
change so quickly that even the hedgerows aren't permanent. 
	While farmers do indeed use pesticides, and the states also use 
them to control invasive insects (gypsy moths for instance, and 
Mediterranean fruit flies) I would say that our main problem is urban 
and suburban sprawl, and the chemicals used by householders in order to 
maintain green lawns in the face of overwehlming adversity.
	This is, of course, the fault of the British who indoctrinated 
us into the notion that "nice people" have grassy lawns. Actually, 
unless you have sheep or small children, a lawn is a foolish waste of 
	The existance of the monocultures here: people, cats and dogs 
instead of an assortment of mammals of various sizes; grassy lawns and 
exotic shrubs and trees instead of natives ... has put tremendous 
pressure on ecosystems. We still suffer from the delusion that Nature is 
out to get us, and that cleanliness is next to godliness. A nation of 
telephone sanitizers. We're working on this though. 
	We are hampered by the fact that Nature actually is out to get 
us, and occasionally reminds us of this with a spot of bubonic plague, 
or Hanta virus or whatever. 
	My neighborhood is promoting greenbelts, which are an 
elaboration on the hedgerows principle. The developers are winning, 
because they have the money and the time.
Oh well.
Anne Kilmer
South Florida

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