It’s time to come out of your chrysalis for Learn About Butterflies Day! Did you know Pennsylvania is a home to 146 species of butterflies? Butterflies are one of a handful of species that pollinate our plants. When butterflies go from flower to flower, they get some pollen on their legs which will rub off onto other flowers. Butterflies are not the most efficient pollinators, but with their migrations they can bring pollen to further places than honeybees would go. Even with their seemingly small contribution to pollination efforts, they’re accountable for pollinating one third of the fruits and vegetables we consume!
Did you know a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope? A kaleidoscope is an indicator that an area is healthy and in balance. If butterflies are in the area, they provide other native species with a food source. Not only are they a food source throughout their life cycle, but some species of butterflies also eat aphids. This means that butterflies are a natural pest deterrent and can not only help crops bloom, but also stay healthy.
Massive population drops have been observed across butterfly species. These drops are causing concern because butterflies tend not to live in unhealthy areas. Butterflies are called an indicator species, which just means they are first to be affected by a changing habitat. It was found that one cause of population drops is due to habitat loss. Having large areas converted for agriculture or developed can be detrimental due to the lack of food sources and shelter.
A great way to help butterflies in your own backyard is by planting a native butterfly garden! Here at the zoo, we have our own butterfly garden in Preston’s Place. A great place to start is to look up native plants in your area that butterflies like to eat or spawn on. These gardens are not only great for butterflies, but they also help other species by providing shelter and nest making materials. You will not only be helping the native wildlife, but also providing yourself with a great way to interact with the world around you.
Written by Caroline Alexander
Conservation Education Intern
Lehigh Valley Zoo | Schnecksville, PA