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The Gap Year Blog

4 Endangered Butterflies

6 Mar 2017 12:15 PM

Butterflies are seen as the essence of nature and are known to have been on the earth for at least 50 million years. This doesn’t mean they aren’t in danger as many butterflies face the risk of extinction all over the world. 56 species are in decline in Britain and Ireland alone. 

Whilst many are in need of conservation, we can’t help but find these guys the best from around the world.

Large Blue (Phengaris arion)

These are the UK’s rarest blue butterflies and are distinguishable from the black dots on the front of their dark blue wings. They are quite an elegant looking species but the prettiest part of these butterflies is their underwings! They are a very light shade of aqua blue with white hues. Also on their undersides are black speckles encircled by white lines. The tips of their wings have a trace of a light blue.  You’re most likely to spot this species around England’s coastlines. The Large Blue butterfly actually became extinct in the UK in the late 1970s. Today, it is a protected species after being reintroduced from continental Europe. It remains globally endangered and has a high conservation priority.

Image courtesy of Peter von Bagh

Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia)

The Heath Fritillary is one of the rarest butterflies in the UK. These pretty little fellas can be seen amongst England’s grasslands. They are priority species in the UK’s biodiversity action plan (BAP) due to a decline in the population of 97% between 1984 and 2005. Although the population has rapidly decreased, they are one of the more commonly spotted butterflies in England due to their wide distribution. They have musky brown coloured wings with variable patterns. They can have orange or yellow spots visible on the tops of their wings with many different designs on their undersides. These can be white, black or a darker shade of brown. The wings also have a threading of white along their edges. It’s also not too hard for you to spot the difference between the male and females as the ladies have a much shorter wingspan than their counterparts.

Image courtesy of gailhampshire

Ceylon Rose (Atrophaneura jophon)

These guys have gotta’ be up there with the coolest looking butterflies! The Ceylon Rose butterfly comes from Sri Lanka. If you were to ever find yourself visiting the forests of Sinharaja or Kanneliya then you might just come across one of these fluttering around the flowers. Their wings are black with white mosaic patterns. The white colour through the wings is almost transparent. They also have pink circles dotted along their edges. Their body is beautiful black velvet with bright crimson. As of 1996, they have been listed as critically endangered under IUCN’s Red list.

Image courtesy of Nayana wijetilaka

Luzon Peacock Swallowtail (Papilio chikae)

The Luzon Peacock Swallowtail is from Australasia and is native to the Philippines. Their wingspan ranges from around 11-12cm long. Their front wings are black and have aqua green scales with a brown underside. The back wings are also black but have a chain of red spots at their curved edges and sometimes you’ll spot some blue shades– almost like a peacock! If you’re ever lucky to come across one of these guys, you’ll also notice their beautiful tails on their back wings. As pretty as they are, they’ve sadly been listed as endangered on IUCN’s Red List from 1996.

Image courtesy of takato marui

Whilst many are in decline, it’s never too late to help save a species. There are many ways to do your bit to help the butterflies. Whether that’s keeping informed and supporting wildlife charities or actually getting involved in the conservation of these beautiful creatures and monitoring them yourself.  Even just creating floral gardens for the butterflies to pass through is worthwhile. After all, who wouldn’t want a garden full of delicate butterflies?

By Simone Kelly - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!