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This fresh specimen of small tortoiseshell was encountered last spring. The bright contrasting color revealed when this butterfly opens its wings are believed to scare off predators. Once considered a common species, numbers of small tortoiseshells have been recently declining in Western Europe (see notes).
Along a path at the edge of a pine forest, alt. 1200 m. On Geranium sylvaticum. Last shots shows a bit more of the habitat.
From Wikipedia: "Once among the most common butterflies in Europe and temperate Asia, this butterfly is in very rapid decline, at least in Western Europe. This decline cannot be explained by the decline of its host plant, because the nettle is widespread and even enjoys the general eutrophication of the environment. The chrysalis is sometimes eaten by wasps, but these are also in strong regression. The effect of other phenomena are still poorly understood (environmental degradation, air pollution, contamination by pesticides). Scientific evidence shows that the summer drought is a cause of declining populations, because larvae grow normally on drenched leaves (but hatchlings were even rarer the wet summers of 2007 and 2008). However, before the year 2000, according to data from an English Butterfly monitoring program, there was a good correlation between reproductive success, the abundance of populations of this species and the host plant moisture stress. From 1976 to 1995, the butterfly had more success in summers that were cool and wet at the beginning of summer than when it is was hot and dry. This butterfly may then be sensitive to global warming." Other observations in continental Europe documenting this species more at altitude would seem to confirm the climate change hypothesis (see second reference).
Lat: 46.49, Long: 6.93
Spotted on Jun 20, 2014
Submitted on Sep 19, 2014
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