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Why butterflies?

Owing to their quick response to habitat fragmentation and deterioration, butterflies have commonly been considered as good indicators of general habitat health. This means that if a butterfly is found, the surroundings are probably of good quality and almost certainly will you find other interesting species – perhaps threatened or ecologically important ones. Butterflies also fulfill several criteria for so-called “umbrella species”, implying that measures to improve the status of a butterfly species may also benefit other organisms that require similar habitat conditions and are able to live in the same areas.

However, like many other animal groups, butterflies have experienced long-term declines in both abundance and distribution throughout Europe, mainly due to a past and present loss of appropriate habitat types, e.g. semi-natural grassland. The loss is brought about by changed or intensified farming and by land abandonment, and in addition, fragmentation of the remaining semi-natural grasslands have resulted in decreased connectivity between the areas, and with that, reduced dispersal among populations.

Burnet moths

Nothing scares the burnet moths.

Burnet moths are day-flying Lepidopterans, easily distinguished from "ordinary" butterflies due to their slow and humming, almost fearless, flight pattern. They are similar to butterflies however, in that they are considered as reliable indicators of habitat quality. Unfortunately, they also resemble butterflies in their deteriorating status: six of the seven burnet moth species in Sweden are currently on the Red list of Swedish species.

Apparently, something must be done, but to be able to construct effective conservation and management plans for a species, the species’ habitat preferences must be identified. However, in order to be successful, such an identification must give attention to several parts of the butterfly life cycle, not solely focusing on only one life stage. What is good for the larvae might not suit the adults, and vice versa. We must also find out what the species needs at different spatial scales – from the quality of individual patches to the network of patches in the landscape.


The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the total habitat requirements of three species of burnet moths: Zygaena filipendulae, Zygaena lonicerae and Zygaena viciae, in different life stages and on two spatial scales, assessing the importance of a multi-stage and multi-scale perspective.

Responsible for this page: Agneta Johansson
Last updated: 05/15/09