Streets of Hong Kong blanketed with perished butterflies

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12th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) In the bustling streets of Hong Kong, a rather tragic natural phenomenon is unfolding. Concerned citizens have taken to social media to report an alarming number of butterfly fatalities, with the winged creatures found lifeless in urban areas, far from their natural habitats. This recent surge in butterfly mortality has raised questions about the health of the local ecosystem and the potential impact on pollination cycles.

A local resident, highlighted the distressing sight on Facebook, noting the unusual number of butterfly deaths for this time of year. The insects appear disoriented, desperately seeking nourishment in a concrete jungle where sustenance is scarce. The assumption is that tens of thousands of these insects are perishing, sparking fears of a cascading effect on the environment.

 The “Delias pasithoe,” characterised by its black, white, yellow, and red wings, is a commonly seen medium-sized butterfly in Hong Kong and is present throughout the year. There is a significant variance in the population of this butterfly between winter and summer, with a sudden surge in numbers just before the beginning of spring, symbolising its arrival.

The Environmental Association has addressed this issue, stating that the Delias pasithoe has a lifespan of only about 10 to 14 days. Consequently, after reaching maturity, they urgently reproduce, going through the pupation and emergence process as spring approaches. The Yellow Coster’s slow flight makes it particularly susceptible to being stepped on or run over by vehicles. Whether by natural causes or accidents, the butterflies’ bodies are frequently found in the days leading up to spring.

The Common Tiger, another species endemic to the region, is among those affected. While it is customary to witness fluctuations in butterfly populations, with numbers peaking just before the onset of spring, the current situation seems dire. The Environmental Association shed light on the fact that these butterflies have a lifespan of approximately 10 to 14 days. As a result, the insects are in a race against time to reproduce, leading to a sudden spike in their presence as spring approaches. However, the slow flight of the Common Tiger makes it vulnerable to being trampled or run over by vehicles, contributing to the noticeable increase in their mortality rate.

Experts suggest that a combination of factors may be contributing to this phenomenon. Climate change, with its pattern of global warming, has been altering habitats and food availability for butterflies. The delicate balance necessary for their survival is easily disrupted by temperature changes, especially as many species cannot withstand temperatures dropping to 7°C or below.

The impact of urban development cannot be understated. As natural landscapes give way to concrete and steel, the butterflies’ traditional feeding and breeding grounds are vanishing. This loss of habitat forces them to seek out new areas, often leading them into dangerous urban settings.

The situation is further exacerbated by potential shifts in the migratory patterns of these insects. Hong Kong’s geographical position makes it a crossroads for several migratory species of butterflies, which may be experiencing altered routes due to environmental changes both locally and across the region.