What I learned about our local butterflies
Widely known for their colorful wings and for their role as pollinators, butterflies are important parts of ecosystems around the world. As we move out of the colder winter weather and into Spring, you might start seeing more butterflies around the neighborhood. Here are some interesting facts about these fascinating insects.
Where butterflies live
The urban Portland area might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about places where butterflies would be. But while it’s true that warm, tropical environments are home to a great number and diversity of butterflies, many species thrive in other habitats. Some can be found in high-elevation alpine environments. Others do, in fact, live in urban or suburban areas, feeding from flowers in gardens.
Often, those urban species rely on the presence of flower gardens not only for food, but also for places to lay their eggs. Planting a butterfly garden can be a great way to create a butterfly-friendly environment. This entails planting flowers and other plants that butterflies in the area can use as food plants. It’s important to know what butterflies live in the area, since not all species have the same food plants. Common butterfly species in the Pacific Northwest include the Painted Lady, the Western Tiger Swallowtail, and the Oregon Swallowtail.
Many butterflies are very vulnerable to climate change and other environmental changes like deforestation – particularly specialist species, which can live in only a very specific environment and have a limited number of food plants they can safely feed off of. It’s important to take action to preserve the environment in order to, among other reasons, help preserve the habitats and environmental conditions that these butterflies need to survive.
Butterflies across the world can help us understand and protect our environment. So, next time you see one flying by, take a moment to appreciate it – and to consider what you can do to help protect and support these incredible insects.
Anna Janowski is a teen (grade 12) volunteer at the Beaverton City Library. Outside of school, she likes to read, write, play softball and the trumpet.