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Israel: Haven for Butterflies

Israel: Haven for Butterflies

April 11, 2019

Natural Sciences

ISRAEL21c – Everyone knows that Israel is the land of milk and honey. But did you know that it is also the land of butterflies? Despite its small size, the country’s unique geographical location between east and west, north and south, makes it uniquely situated for the flying beauties.

In Israel there are 110 different species of butterflies. Recently they made headlines in Israel when billions fluttered through the country on their way from the Arabian Peninsula to Europe at the end of March.

Now is the prime time to enjoy them.

Dr. Vadim Khasdan

Dr. Vadim Khasdan, manager of the KashKush Lab, a genetics laboratory at Ben-Gurion University’s Life Sciences Department, shares a tip for butterfly-watching at home: Plant suitable flowers in the garden or even on the windowsill to attract the pretty insects.

“That way you can contribute to nature, to the flowers and to the butterflies, and also enjoy the butterflies coming to visit you at home or in the garden,” he says.

As a resident of the southern city of Beer-Sheva, one of Dr. Khasdan’s favorite butterfly spots is on the edge of the city. But like many other areas, it is threatened by urban expansion.

“People think only about profits, only of real estate,” Dr. Khasdan notes sadly. “We’re talking about a biodiversity problem, a range of species that’s important to maintain. Our species, the Homo sapiens, is taking over Earth,” he says.

a swallowtail butterfly

Butterflies in Israel also suffer from forestation efforts that don’t take into account the butterflies’ natural habitat, Dr. Khasdan says. The result is less open spaces and plant species that aren’t beneficial for them.

In addition, global warming has led to a drastic drop in the number of butterflies worldwide. In Israel the problem is particularly prominent on Mount Hermon (in the north of Israel, straddling the border between Syria and Lebanon), where butterflies are used to certain temperatures and have to go further and further up the mountain to survive and prosper.

Luckily, there are still plenty of butterflies to enjoy. So which are this expert’s favorites?

“I like swallowtails the best,” says Dr. Khasdan. “It’s one of the largest butterflies in the country. Their flight is very beautiful.”

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