The truth behind butterflies

MEDIA, Pa. - August 19, 2009 Watching butterflies is just one of the small pleasures of spring and summer, whether they are the silver-spotted skipper, the ever-popular monarch, the dainty cabbage whites, or another.

The butterflies came early this year because of the unseasonably warm spring we experienced in the region.

"And then the rains and the cold weather came and all of a sudden there were no butterflies. They were just not around," Barbara Menning, a Butterfly House volunteer, said.

Butterflies need the warm weather to evolve from their winter state, but our region had unseasonably cool weather and 17 days of rain in June.

Experts say that chilly wet weather delayed the butterflies' life cycle; the rain knocked many of the caterpillars to the ground, leaving them vulnerable to predators.

As a result, the annual 4th of July census, conducted for the North American Butterfly Association, recorded less than half the annual average number of butterflies. The second lowest total in the event's 18 year history!

At the Tyler Arboretum, there is one species of butterfly whose population has not been affected as much as some of the others, the Great Spangled Fritillary.

"We hope there will be a definite increase in the butterfly counts, however, it's very important to recognize there are other factors that may be coming into play," Rick Colbert, the executive director of the Tyler Arboretum said.

Other factors like habitat destruction and pesticides.

"The increase of pesticide applications, whether it's herbicides or insecticides, definitely has an impact on the population of butterflies," Colbert said.

Officials at the Tyler Arboretum say about the best thing that could happen to the beloved butterfly is another heat wave.

"The weather that we're currently experiencing is very helpful to our butterfly populations," Colbert said.

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