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Butterflies

Status of Selected Butterflies and Mothsbutterfly

Butterflies and moths are collectively referred to as Lepidoptera. Butterflies are often colourful and fly by day, while moths generally are dull in colour and fly by night; amongst other differences.

Various species of Lepidoptera are found across the Maltese Islands, with the number of resident species going into the hundreds. While a number of them are common, others are known to be scarce, or even threatened. A commissioned study assessed 87 species which were considered to be endemic and/or possibly threatened. While 5% of these are extinct, 58% are threatened – with a significant degree of these being critically endangered.

While some species are naturally rare, others have been directly affected, for instance through collection of caterpillars or adults. Others have been indirectly affected, for instance in view of habitat degradation. Indeed, the extensive changes that have taken place in the countryside, have led to a significant reduction in the habitat and food supply for various Lepidoptera. Migratory species are also affected since some fail to establish themselves permanently. Additionally, some species are probably affected through the impact of biocides directly aimed at specific caterpillars or their food plants. Factors that are not directly anthropogenic in nature, such as drought, also have an affect.

To improve the status of Lepidoptera, a number of species, amongst which all relevant endemic ones, have been afforded legal protection under the Environment Protection Act.