Why butterflies matter

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Butterflies conjure up images of sunshine, the warmth and colour of flowery meadows, and summer gardens teaming with life. Sadly, four butterflies became extinct during the last 150 years. Three-quarters of British butterflies are in decline.

The 56 species in Britain and Ireland are under threat today from unprecedented environmental change. Butterflies and moths have been recognised by the Government as indicators of biodiversity. Their fragility makes them quick to react to change so their struggle to survive is a serious warning about our environment.

Habitats have been destroyed on a massive scale, and now patterns of climate and weather are shifting unpredictably in response to pollution of the atmosphere but the disappearance of these beautiful creatures is more serious than just a loss of colour in the countryside.

Why butterflies and moths are important

There are many reasons why butterflies and moths are important, both in their own right but also as quality of life indicators. The following are the main reasons for conserving butterflies and moths in the UK and around the world.

Intrinsic value

  • Butterflies and moths are intrinsically valuable and are worthy of conservation in their own right.
  • Butterflies and moths are part of Life on Earth and an important component of its rich biodiversity.
  • They have been around for at least 50 million years and probably first evolved some 150 million years ago.
  • Butterflies and moths are a highly diverse group comprising over 250,000 species and make up around one quarter of all named species.
  • Butterflies are flagship species for conservation in general, and in particular for invertebrates.

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