The sight of beautiful butterflies and moths fluttering around in the summer sunshine or on moonlit nights is one of our favourite sights. But sadly, like many other plants, animals and insects on Planet Earth, some species of butterfly and moth are endangered.
What’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth?
Butterflies and moths are both part of a group of insects called Lepidoptera.
Both have a lot of characteristics in common, like delicate wings with patterns and antennae, but there are plenty of differences.
The most common one is when they fly, with butterflies coming out during the day and moths at night. However, there are some exceptions – some species of moth fly during the day and some butterflies are night flying!
Butterflies have skinny antennae with a little club-like shape at the end, while months have branched, feathery antennae.
Moths hold their wings flat and open when they are resting, while butterflies hold them up and together behind their backs.
There’s a great guide to the similarities and differences on this guide from the Australian Museum.
Do butterflies and moths only come out in the summer?
In the UK, where there’s a big seasonal change in the weather and air temperature, most butterflies come out in the early spring and thrive in the warm summer. But that’s not the only time.
There are some beautiful butterflies and moths that come out in Autumn including the wonderfully-named Pink-barrelled Sallow moth and the Red Admiral butterfly.
And of course in other parts of the world, butterflies and moths can thrive all year round.
10 ways to help butterflies and moths this autumn – Butterfly Conservation
What are the threats that butterflies and moths face?
Butterflies and moths are indicators species. They are particular sensitive to changes in the environment, so often if something changes, it will quickly effect the butterfly population. By monitoring them, environmentalists can often a problem quickly, and we can then do all we can to help solve it.
However, some problems are easier to solve than others.
One big problem is habitat loss. There are fewer and fewer areas of wild flowers and plants across the country, which means fewer places for butterflies and moths to thrive.
The patches that there are are often spread out and hard to travel between, which means you get an isolated population of butterflies which makes them even more vulnerable to environmental changes and at risk of dying out in that area. The good news even small patches of wild flowers and grasses can help, so the more little areas close to each other the better!
This means that schools and communities can make a big difference by planting butterfly-friendly plants in gardens and on school grounds, and can campaign to get patches planted in parks and gardens.
What can I do to help them?
Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do as an individual to help, and if you get together as a group with friends, family and your local community, there’s even more!
If you have a garden, either at home or at school, make sure you grow plants that provide food that butterflies like to eat. That doesn’t just mean for the adult butterflies: it’s important that their caterpillars have something tasty to munch on when they emerge from their eggs too!
You can buy ready-mixed selections of butterfly-friendly seeds in most gardening centres, and there’s also lots of advice on which plants particular species like on the Butterfly Conservation website, which has lots of brilliant advice!
Get gardening for Butterflies and Moths – Butterfly Conservation
Another way you can help is by joining in with surveys and reporting what butterflies and moths you’ve seen, when and where. This helps researches get loads more data on how these insects are doing, what time of year they’re active, which species are are doing well, etc.
Butterfly Conservation has lots of surveys you can report your sightings too, and an app as well!
Recording and monitoring – Butterfly Conservation
Roots & Shoots project ideas
A butterfly and moth conservation project would be perfect for a Roots and Shoots group.
How about cultivating a patch of land on school grounds to encourage butterflies and moths, then recording and reporting what species visit?
Or you could go on a regular butterfly walk or moth hunt to see how they are fairing in your local parks, meadows or woodlands, the send your findings to Butterfly Conservation?