Climate Change Could Reduce the Size of Butterflies, Effectively Causing Astronomical Global Food Shortages: Study – The Weather Channel

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(Anil Shinde/TOI, BCCL/Mumbai)

Hey, you. Do you like food? Here’s only one-fourth of your daily food portion. No, we’re not trying to bully you. This is an instance of the cataclysmic future that actually grows more and more probable by the day. And with a new report on the diminishing size of butterflies due to climate change-induced warming, we have unfortunately placed another shameful foot toward this grim reality.

But first, you might be wondering: How do butterflies tie into the food on my plate? Let us explain.

These majestic insects, along with other pollinators such as bees, wasps and moths are crucial frontline workers in food production. While plants might seem fairly independent, 75-95% of all flowering species are actually extremely reliant on our winged friends to nudge their pollen enough to begin the maturing process that bears us our, well, fruit.

Saunas actually cause butterflies to lose weight, it turns out

The study simulated warming conditions inside the lab to see how the butterfly would adapt to each scenario. Unfortunately, the researchers found that the warmer it got, the more the butterflies shrunk in size. This meant that they also had smaller wings, which made them less agile and unable to fly larger distances, thus pollinating much smaller areas.

The team also discovered that similarly sized wild butterflies were significantly less pollen-carrying and more hesitant to explore than their larger counterparts, who frequently visited more plants. If we assume that all species will adapt to global warming similarly, the combination of these factors is terrible news for butterflies and food production in general.

Does size really matter?

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With pollinators, yes! When butterflies shrink in size, they are unable to disperse as much pollen among flowers, since they basically carry the grains like crumbs in their buzzy beard. As a result, the growth of the plant crawls to a drag, leading to diminishing yields, and ultimately, a global food shortage.

If global warming was the COVID-19 pandemic, then these insects would easily be our tireless essential workers keeping us from tipping over the edge, while adding the equivalent of a mind-numbing ₹17.3 lakh crores to our global economy. For these reasons, and for the fact that some studies estimate we have pollinators to thank for one out of each three bites of food we devour, let us strive to work hand-in-wing to ensure we minimise damage to our fluttery friends as much as possible.

The research was recently published in Ecological Entomology and can be accessed here.

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