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Protected Butterfly

Several species of Butterfly are dwindling in their population numbers. The main reason is pollution and damage to their habitats. Only timely conservative measures can protect them from total extinction. Government agencies all over the world are taking serious steps to conserve wild life by enforcing strict law.

The Marsh Fritillary Butterfly ( Euphydryas aurinia) of United Kingdom, for example is a protected species. In 1995 the butterfly has been given legal protection. The butterfly lives in grasslands and marshes. For agriculture and breeding of cattle, man has extensively used grasslands. After the law is enforced, alternative measures are taken and spare the grasslands for the butterfly.

Eggs of this butterfly are found during May, underside leaves of Devil’s bit scabious plants ( Succisa pratensis) that grow abundantly in grass lands. Eggs hatch into caterpillars after three weeks.

The caterpillars live together; spin a silk web on the lower leaves of the host plant close to the ground and feed. During September, the caterpillars make the web large and tough. Withered bits of leaves are incorporated into the web that looks shining brown. The caterpillars now leave the web, move to a place three or four feet away and spin a new web. The web is actually a nest for these caterpillars.

Inside the new web each caterpillar spins a smaller web for itself, called the hibernaculum. During October, the caterpillars suspend their activity and begin winter sleep or hibernation. In swampy areas, the entire web will remain submerged under water for weeks. The caterpillars remain safely insulated under hibernacula and undergo hibernation.

In the middle of March next year, the caterpillars resume their activity. They are black colored with short spiny hairs. As they move together on the top of vegetation, their black mass absorbs heat and raises the body temperature. Their activity and growth reach a peak. They all disperse by the end of April.

Each caterpillar now finds a safe place and builds a chrysalis attached to the underside of dead leaves or grass, close to ground and becomes a pupa.

Adult butterflies emerge in May. They have a wingspan of 45mm. The wings are brightly patterned with black, orange and white markings. The tips of antennae are orange colored that add beauty to the butterfly.

The Marsh Fritillary Butterflies are weak fliers and are found in groups basking under bright sun on the flower heads. The entire area is a pleasant sight to watch and hence the importance given to the butterfly.