Lepidoptera biotopes

Without suitable habitat there are no butterflies!
Any species has specific habitat requirements, which can be broader or very narrow depending on the ecological adaptability. The habitat requirements include not only the presence of larval host and nectar plants in sufficient quantity, these must also be supplied in appropriate microclimate (eg sunlight, moisture, heat, physical properties of the habitat) and under appropriate mechanical and chemical growing conditions (such as mowing intensity, point of mowing time, depth of cut, grazing, no insecticide-entry of surrounding fields, etc.). The necessary minimum area for medium term survival depends on the availability and proportion of species-specific optimum habitat which must be large enough to guarantee reproduction success even in a series of bad years (poor weather conditions, high parasitism, unfavorable maintenance). The richest butterfly habitats in Europe are structurally rich , mostly calcareous grasslands (especially butterflies), fens and bright, warm woods such as swamp forests, wood pastures and coppice forests. These are all only most extensively cultivated areas, partly natural (riparian forests) and partly depending on the extensive maintenance (lots of grasslands).

So it is already apparent that in Central Europe only a tiny fraction of the landscape is still suitable as interesting butterfly habitat. In most cases uninteresting or only suitable for ubiquists and a few specialists (which are said to be harmful species when occurring in great numbers such as Pieris species) are all following areas:
  • Dense human settlements - even if there can be a notable species inventory in ruderal areas or extensively maintained nature gardens or parks
  • Intensively managed (that include today almost all) agricultural areas
  • Intensively managed meadows with more than two or three times cutting and manure fertilization (now nearly all fields for agricultural purposes, dandelion - Taraxacum officinale - meadows)
  • Dark forests (mainly spruce and also beech and maple monocultures) without open spaces such as clear-cuttings or wind blast areas
Please use the navigation to the top right in order to obtain further information on some important European butterfly habitats. A good account of the Central European conditions (except for the Alps) is presented in Weidemann (1995, in German), see bibliography. In which habitats a species can be be expected, can be seen in the species pages (under habitat).

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