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Spraying Pesticides and the Butterfly Effect

Pesticides Effects on Butterflies

Pesticide spraying or misting is widespread and, in fact, a common practice among most farmers and ranchers alike.  Pesticides are used daily in the landscape management and pest control industries as well.  It is now a common practice amongst city workers; especially as the fear of mosquito borne illnesses threaten more and more lives.  (The spraying of pesticides is very heavily monitored, requiring applicator’s licenses, yearly updates, and detailed application tracking.)  Did you know that pesticide spraying was once thought to be driving certain butterfly species to extinction?

Butterfly Effects

Until recently, researchers thought that pesticide spraying was drastically decreasing the number of butterflies and in turn, causing butterfly species to become extinct; among these are the Florida Zestos Skipper, Rockland Meske’s Skipper, and Key’s Zarucco Skipper.  The belief was that the chemicals were killing the butterfly populations.  However, many areas that regularly spray pesticides have been found to have incredibly large butterfly populations; whereas areas that refrain from using pesticides have been found with a minute butterfly population.  Thus the pesticide spraying is positively correlated with a higher butterfly population.

Although this seems illogical, researchers found that the pesticides may actually kill some of the predators such as common parasitic wasps that prey upon butterflies, especially in the larvae and pupae stages, and cause the population to flourish.  Additionally, ants also have the ability to overrun an area and push out other species.  Thus, in the absence of the pesticides, the natural predators pushed certain species of butterflies to extinction.

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