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.
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.
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.
Okay, so we had to get this one on the list just for its colourful wings! The white-spotted agrias can be seen in South America from Mexico to Brazil. There are 5 Agrias species and many more subspecies. The subspecies amydonius are native to Peru and are certainly the prettiest of the bunch. When sat rested or feeding they sit with their wings closed showing off the eye-catching designs on their undersides. The pattern resembles a twirl of yellow with streaks of black and some white spots. The front of their wings also have a hue of red and if you spot the butterfly gently flicking their wings on the ground then you can catch a quick glimpse of the crimson and blue scales on their uppersides. What’s interesting about this subspecies is the yellow and black stripes on its body. These crazy colours and patterns actually prove to be the perfect camouflage for their vibrant forest habitats.
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.
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