COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Climate change has become synonymous with melting glaciers and blazing summer months, but there is one very small casualty of global warming that isn’t front page news: butterflies.
Unpredictable and shifting climates are forcing butterflies around the world to change the time they emerge from their chrysalises, when and where they move, and even shift the range in which they travel.
“Climate change is definitely affecting butterflies on a vast scale,” said Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association. “There’s a whole suite of butterflies whose ranges are retreating. Butterflies that used to be found in New Jersey and Massachusetts haven’t been seen in years.”
This could potentially hit Maryland especially hard; the state insect is a rare butterfly called the Baltimore Checkerspot. Thanks to habitat destruction and warming climates, the butterflies are in danger of being forced to pack their bags and move north.
The Baltimore Checkerspot has been Maryland’s state insect since 1973 and, much like bees, they pollinate a number of crops and wild flora throughout the state. At one point, Baltimore Checkerspots could be found statewide.
“They were all over Maryland, from the western to the easternmost counties,” said Jennifer Frye, the invertebrate ecologist for the state’s Wildlife and Heritage Service. “Now they’re in seven counties, less than 15 sites.”
Sites generally refer to breeding colonies in a wetland where the Baltimore Checkerspot’s host plant