For some time now (20 years), I am surprised just how fast the number of insects (especially butterflies) observable each year is rapidly declining. It seems that year after year less and less individuals from each species are observable at the same locations I visit for decades. And it is not just me; many others see this phenomenon, despite not being in the field of studying or photographing the butterflies.
I do know of a few species that are now almost completely extinct in some locations, and as far as I can see, the main reason for this is the rapidly intensifying agriculture, which translates into more and more use of chemicals and loss of habitat. This is true at he moment for at least 4 locations in Romania that I often visit. I am sure this occurs at a much larger scale. And the problem is that most of the affected areas are actually protected ones, in which the logic of the entities managing them is to let intense agriculture to be maintained over ever larger areas inside this protected regions. The loss of habitat inside the areas (which by itself is illogical) is amplifying the effect of the very strong and widespread chemicals used for repealing or the destruction of pests.
One such “protected area” that I’ve visited year by year starting with 2011 is located near the village of Nucsoara in the Retezat Mountains. Here, the main reason for habitat loss is a combination of intense grazing and new “modern” roads that are being constructed on top of the old ones. The new roads are of course made of materials that have to endure the weather, but in return they destroy some of the most important habitat for butterflies: most of this insects fly at low altitude (30-100cm) above the ground and over the mud roads in order to get a good location for drinking water and basking in the Sun, two extremely important parts of their behavior in order to survive and find a mate. Now, in order to have good driving roads to get high in the mountains with no problems (to different huts or restaurants), those stone/mud/water-made old roads (with naturally imposed speed limits of around 10 kph) are, year after year, being transformed in highway-speed roads; each summer I see tens of butterfly individuals being killed by cars. The roadkills are only intensifying. Some of these species are already on the verge of extinction due to global warming (which by the way- IT IS REAL!!!) so the ever faster large sized objects (cars) moving at 60mph or 100mph, offer no chance for some of the most important behavioral activities of these beings…
I can only hope that there will still be a few spots in these areas for such beautiful insects to survive. The Retezat mountains have some of the most striking butterfly species of Europe, which can be still found on the continent, but ever more rarely.
I’ve created the following poster some time ago, for one of the mountain huts in the area of Nucoasara, in order to have the tourists informed about the great diversity of these creatures in the Retezat Mountains. Some of the most threatened species are also present on this poster, as I was doing some intense insect photography in the area.
Hope to still be able to see them the following years…
And some links about declining insects in Germany. Unfortunately this occurs in most of Europe. Link one. Link two.