Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My Lamentation: Where have all the Butterflies in Metro Manila gone?

Long ago, when I was much younger I remember that in the not quite urbanized past there abounded butterflies, moths, dragonflies and even fireflies on occasion in Makati.  I'm sure all you older folks remember what it was like staring in wonder at the fluttering of delicate wings, sometimes catching them and hopefully releasing them.  But now they are a rare sight in the now fully urbanized concrete jungle of polluted greys and browns with pathetic excuses for parks.  Now you'd be lucky to see the tiniest butterfly on a random flower.  I remember Tukos in Quezon City and in Fort Bonifacio before it became "da Fort".  Sadly most of plant life is gone and it follows with the loss of valuable endemic food and shelter plants that insect life would decline which leads to decline of reptile and avian species that in turn feed on the insects.  This calamity is what led to a butterfly sighting becoming something rare as opposed to a precious everyday moment.

The reason?  Loss of environment.  The loss of many of the endemic plant species have caused this drastic decline in the butterfly population.  What I realized only recently is that Butterfly caterpillars are dependent on specific host plants for food.  Read more about that here, what caterpillars eat.  Even in subdivisions with gardens in each home, the native plant species have been replaced by whatever plant is fashionable, well, the butterflies can't eat those, they can't evolve fast enough to.  There is also a loss to flowering plants on which the adult butterflies must feed. The new plants leave the butterflies with no alternative but to move away and/or die.

I was fortunate to have visited the Bio Research butterfly breeding facility in Laguna and saw pen after pen (rather enclosures) covered in fine mesh net.  In each enclosure was a different host plant and butterfly species that would lay their eggs on the plant inside.  Remember, specific butterfly species caterpillars may only eat a particular plant.  The most noteworthy was the calamansi which this beauty needs .

I have since bought three calamansi plants which I will grow and hopefully attract butterflies back into my home.  I will update this post as soon as I have results and when I am able to do more research on where to get a first batch of butterflies for the mini environment I will be creating.  I will create a section with all the host plants and flowers.  Bear with my post as it is more rant but I will see if I can do something about it and if my experiment can be replicated in any home with enough space to spare for a few plants.

Worthy of nostalgia are these butterflies of the Philippines and this links.  Now here is a possible supplier of butterflies to begin a new population http://florafarmbutterfly.blogspot.com/.

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