Tag: Ecosystem

Butterflies and Moths Matter! Here’s How You Can Help Them…

Butterflies and Moths Matter! Here’s How You Can Help Them…

Butterflies and Moths are fascinating, other-worldly, fluttery creatures. As it’s now summer in the Northern Hemisphere, you should be seeing them around flowers on sunny days, particularly butterflies. If you’re lucky.

I say ‘lucky’, because butterfly and moth populations, like many invertebrates and other species on this Earth, are in serious decline.

Besides being pretty reminders of summer and flowers, what do they do?

If you’re seeing butterflies or moths in your garden, it’s a key indicator that your garden is a fairly healthy mini-ecosystem, because if they’re around, it means there are food sources for them. And where there is food for them, there is food for others too.

So the presence of butterflies and moths usually means there are also other ecologically-important invertebrates like bugs, beetles, spiders, worms and bees, which in turn provide welcoming food for other animals like birds, bats, mice, hedgehogs, frogs and so on.

Collectively invertebrates (including insects, spiders, flies and worms) contribute hugely to life on Earth, doing extremely important and very specific jobs like pollinating plants, improving soil quality, providing natural pest control, and serving as food sources for other animals in the food chain.

Besides being part of the great web of life on Earth, butterflies and moths are intriguing. The idea that they go from leaf-bound caterpillars to flying beauties in one short life is amazing and should be celebrated.

What are the differences between butterflies and moths?

Often people think butterflies are more colourful, but while this may be generally true, there are many monochrome butterflies and many multi-coloured moths. Moths are also often more furry or fuzzy, but butterflies can be too.

The main differences are:

Butterflies are generally awake and seen in the daytime (preferring sunny weather), while moths are nocturnal and will often be seen fluttering around lights at night or resting on walls or trees.

Butterflies rest with their wings closed together vertically, whilst moths will rest with their wings wide open and flat against a surface.

Butterflies have longer, thinner antennae, while moths usually have shorter, feathery ones.

Butterflies create hard chrysalises to grow in from their caterpillar stage, while moths create soft, silky cocoons.

Are there any dangerous butterflies or moths?

The vast majority of butterflies and moths are not dangerous to humans, and none can bite.

However eating some species such as the Monarch Butterfly can be toxic because they eat toxic plants and the toxin remains in their bodies. And a few species of caterpillar can cause pain and swelling from touching their stinging spines or hairs on their bodies.

What about clothes-eating moths? Of the thousands of species of moths, only a few will attack clothes and they prefer dirty and undisturbed clothes.

How can we encourage butterflies and moths?

Make sure you encourage pollinator- and caterpillar-loving plants in your garden or plant pots. Do some research to find which plants and flowers they like, then plant them in your garden.

Try not to cut back bushes, trees and hedgerows. Plants not only provide food for butterflies and moths (and their caterpillars), but are their homes and nesting places too.

Do not kill, chop or pull out weeds. Many common weeds are essential food for butterflies, moths and other invertebrates, and weeds are plants too, so have a right to life like anything else.

Reduce or completely stop using weedkillers, herbicides, pesticides, slug pellets, moth balls, bug sprays and other garden poisons. These not only kill off food sources for invertebrates including bees, butterflies and moths, but often small creatures will be poisoned too, even if the poison wasn’t aimed at them. Remember: Any substance which is meant to kill some life will be dangerous in some way to all forms of life.

Visit and support public gardens, places and sanctuaries that actively encourage butterflies and moths. You can find out more here: North American Butterfly Association, USA  or Top 10 National Trust gardens to see butterflies, UK.

Take part in bee, butterfly and moth counts to help scientists monitor their numbers, such as these ones:

The Big Butterfly Count (July-August, UK): https://bigbutterflycount.org/

The Great British Bee Count (May-June, UK): https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bee-count

Blooms for Bees (Bumblebees count, UK): http://www.bloomsforbees.co.uk/

National Moth Recording Scheme (UK): http://www.mothscount.org/text/70/How_to_take_part.html 

Please get in touch! How often do you see butterflies and moths? Which are your favourite species and why? Which plants do they like? Do you feel their numbers have declined since your childhood? Please comment below this post. 🙂


Get this printable A4-size companion poster summarising why Butterflies and Moths are important and how to save them.


 

Sources and further reading

https://animals.mom.me/moths-dangerous-humans-6231.html

https://beewatch.abdn.ac.uk//beewatch/index.php?r=species/index

https://www.bigbeecount.org/

https://bigbutterflycount.org/

Home

https://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs-and-habitats/puss-moth

https://butterfly-conservation.org/how-you-can-help/get-involved/gardening/gardening-for-butterflies

https://butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies/why-butterflies-matter

https://friendsoftheearth.uk/bee-count

10 Great Nectar Plants For Butterflies and Moths

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/22/moths-loved-not-loathed-only-few-after-clothes

https://www.livescience.com/34472-difference-between-moth-butterfly.html

http://www.mothscount.org/text/70/How_to_take_part.html

Home

https://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/home-garden/gardening/wildlife/top-10-national-trust-gardens-for-butterflies

What is the difference between a moth and a butterfly?

Photos thanks to pixabay.com


 

Make 1 Change a Week – 52 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet: How to Save Hedgehogs

Make 1 Change a Week – 52 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet: How to Save Hedgehogs

 

Hedgehogs. Those cute little spiky animals we all love, which we are inadvertently driving to extinction.

It’s “Hedgehog Awareness Week” in the UK from 5th to 11th May 2019.

But hedgehog populations are suffering and we may lose these little critters if we don’t all start doing something about it now.

Basically hedgehogs are dying because humans are taking away their living space and their food, and since they’re nocturnal creatures, we’re killing them on the roads too.

So what can we do to help hedgehogs survive?

We need to make our gardens and parks and common spaces hedgehog-friendly.

Keep your garden and other natural areas litter-free. Hedgehogs and other wildlife can easily get caught in plastic, netting or packaging left lying around.
 
More than anything, we must actively keep plants, hedgerows, bushes and fallen leaves intact. We need to start encouraging nature and plant life, not cutting it back or clearing it away.
 
Hedgehogs eat bugs so we need to ensure the hedgehogs, and the bugs, have somewhere safe to live. That means NO weedkillers, pesticides or herbicides!
 

Remember that so-called ‘weeds’ are plants too, and these are usually important food sources for insects, bees and small mammals.

No matter how safe the manufacturers claim their biological poisons are, chemicals like Roundup, other glyphosate-based herbicides and other toxic garden sprays and pest pellets are designed to KILL life.
 
Despite the fact that they are designed to kill only some life, the target plants and small animals are always part of an ecosystem with other life, which means if we use chemicals at the bottom of the food chain, we are poisoning and negatively affecting ALL life up the food chain too.
 
For example, if we spray weedkiller, and a hedgehog eats insects which were on or around that plant, the hedgehog will be poisoned too.
 

Hedgehogs often struggle to move around to find food sources.

Where possible we should be adding holes for them in the bottom of garden fences, using lower borders around plant beds (maximum 15cm high), or using plants as borders instead of fences.
 
It’s a good idea to talk to your neighbours and each make a hedgehog-sized hole in your fences, so hedgehogs can move unhindered through all your gardens.
 
You can put out water in a shallow bowl, and some specialist hedgehog food for them too. But if your garden is a safe haven, full of life, and they can move around safely, hedgehogs will probably be able to find enough food and moisture without you feeding them. The only time it may become an emergency is in hot summer spells, when they will benefit from you putting water out.
 

Hedgehogs sleep and hibernate under hedges, bushes and in piles of leaves and vegetation.

Never clear leaves away, and don’t prepare or light a bonfire, without first gently checking for hedgehogs which may be resting or sleeping underneath. Be careful when gardening, as hedgehogs can be injured or killed by hedge-trimmers, lawnmowers, strimmers and even handheld garden tools.
 
You can place a hedgehog box or hedgehog house under plants or in areas with lots of leaves and vegetation for hedgehogs to live in. Put some leaves, moss and twigs in it to encourage them in. They may well hibernate in it all winter, and even make a nest for their babies there!
 

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they sleep in the day and roam around feeding at night.

Try to not disturb hedgehogs who you know may be sleeping nearby in the day. Also do be aware that hedgehogs may be hibernating for a few months in the winter, so again, do not disturb places where they might be.
 
Unfortunately it’s not always possible to avoid them on the roads. But where you can, do drive slowly and look out for little creatures crossing the road at night.

Find out more. 

Have you ever seen a hedgehog? What are you doing to save them? I’d love to hear from you. Write your reply below this post.


Information sources and further reading:

British Hedgehog Preservation Society: https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/
St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital: https://www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk/

Photo credits:

Hedgehog photos and images from pixabay.com and canva.com


Make 1 Change a Week – 52 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet: Elephant Extinction – Does it Matter?

Make 1 Change a Week – 52 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet: Elephant Extinction – Does it Matter?

I love elephants. I’m in awe of their huge size, their intelligence, their community spirit, their fierceness, their grace, their extreme care for each other, their strength, their resolve, their beauty, their elephant-ness.

But I’m also very scared. Scared that one day, soon, too soon, there will be only a handful of elephants left… And that those last few elephants will then be killed by humans or die off without their population recovering…

And then there will be no more elephants. Ever.

Get your free Elephants Matter worksheet

No elephants? How could that be?

The statistics on elephant deaths, mainly due to poaching for their tusks and habitat loss, are terrifying. For example, in the 9 years up to 2011, around 62% of the world’s elephant population was lost.

From 2003 onwards, elephants have been killed faster than they can reproduce (in other words, fewer animals are being born than are dying). In fact, on average poachers kill African Elephants every 15 minutes.

Mathematically and tragically, this means elephants will one day be no more. Except perhaps for some sad individuals behind bars in zoos.

That is, unless the poaching, habitat loss, hunting and kidnapping reduces or stops altogether.

But first, why do elephants matter?

Elephants matter because they are part of the great web of life. Okay, so people natter on about ecology etc, but what have elephants actually got to do with anything?

Elephants are essential ‘processors’ in forest and savannah landscapes, consuming, moving and producing organic matter (for example, leaves, grasses, roots and branches are eaten, moved and eventually turned into poo, which in turn, provides food and nourishment for others). Read more about how essential they are to nature (scroll down to the ‘Why They Matter’ section).

Think of it like this. Your body is an ecosystem, in the sense that there are lots of parts and organic material which interact in a very finely tuned, complex way to keep you alive. If we were to remove your liver tomorrow, you might survive for a short while with the help of doctors, but you would be very unhealthy and ultimately you would probably die.

Like your liver is essential for your body to be alive and thrive, elephants are a necessary part of the vast eco-web of life across this planet. If they are killed off, the important jobs they do in keeping life ticking along can’t really be filled by anything else.

And so the plants and other animals that rely on elephants in their environment will also suffer and some will probably die off. The intricate balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide between plants and animals, and on which you rely in order to be able to take every breath, will also be affected. As will the chemistry of the soil and water, and the symbiotic proportions of plants and animals.

Elephants alone are not responsible for all of this. We are all part of it and all necessary for life together.

Elephants also matter because they’re living beings on this planet.

Because they’re alive. Because they’re amazing and wonderful. And because all living things matter. Like you and me.

What can you do to help elephants?

Even if you live far away from any elephants, there are lots of things you can do to help:

  • Donate to environmental charities which take action to save elephants from poaching, hunting and habitat loss.

  • Sign petitions to governments and environmental authorities to do more to stop ivory trade, poaching and hunting. Speak up for elephants by speaking out against poaching, hunting and animal cruelty whenever you can.
  • Share information, videos and pictures about elephants online. Make people aware, so that they in turn also take action to help elephants.

  • Don’t support tourist attractions like zoos, elephant rides and circuses, where elephants are exploited and kept confined. Elephants are usually beaten and tortured from a young age in these situations to make them ‘tame’ enough for interactions with humans. Did you know that over 70% of elephants in zoos in Europe were caught as babies in the wild and taken away from their mothers and herds to live the rest of their lives in captivity?
  • Support, visit and donate to wild animal sanctuaries, who are committed to providing better lives for ophaned elephants and elephants rescued from zoos or circuses, as well as wildlife reserves who let elephants and other animals roam free in natural landscapes, as they are meant to.
  • Explore lots of elephant-related topics in my free ‘Elephant Matters’ eco-worksheet, yours to download and print as you need:

Get your free Elephants Matter worksheet

What do elephants mean to you? I’d love to know what you think. Reply under this post.


Information sources and further reading:

https://www.freedomforanimals.org.uk/blog/10-facts-about-zoos

http://www.greatelephantcensus.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/every-elephant-counts-paul-g-allen/

http://www.poachingfacts.com/poaching-statistics/elephant-poaching-statistics/ 

 

Photo credits:

Most elephant photos and images from pixabay.com, except for:

Elephant standing to eat tree photo by Johanneke Kroesbergen-Kamps on Unsplash

Baby elephant swimming photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

Mother and baby elephant photo by Chen Hu on Unsplash