Biodiverse Yunnan sees rare "butterfly explosion"
As of Thursday, hundreds of millions of butterflies began to emerge from chrysalises in the Honghe butterfly valley in southwest China's Yunnan Province, forming a rare ecological spectacle.
"Butterfly explosion" refers to the seasonal landscape formed in late spring and early summer every year, in which a large number of Stichophthalma larvae pupate in a short period of time and then emerge into butterflies, according to Yang Zhenwen, curator of the butterfly valley museum in Ma'an'di Town under Jinping Miao, Yao, and Dai Autonomous County.
"Based on the samplings at 23 observation sites in the valley, the total number of butterflies during this year's explosion will be over 100 million, and the explosion will last until July," Yang said.
More than 320 butterfly species have been identified in specimens or photographs, including the rarest, most primitive, largest, and smallest butterflies in China.
Zhou Xuesong, an animal and plant conservation expert with Southwest Forestry University, said Ma'an'di is warm and humid all year round, with a forest coverage rate of 70 percent and an altitude ranging from 105 meters to 3,012 meters, rendering it a complete monsoon evergreen broad-leaved forest and other vegetation types, and a basic ecological environment suitable for butterflies.
"Based on current research, there are only two places in the world where butterfly explosions have been observed, one in Mexico and the other in the butterfly valley," Yang said.
Since opening to the public in 2010, the butterfly valley has received more than 1.8 million visitors. The county government has thus introduced regulations to protect and manage the butterfly valley and invited experts and scholars to carry out scientific investigations.
"I also worked with these experts on writing a science book on butterfly conservation for primary school students. It is hoped that students will develop an awareness of biodiversity conservation from an early age," Yang said.
"Butterflies are a gift from nature. Now through our breeding and protection, there are more and more kinds of butterflies and the ecological environment is getting better and better," said Wu Ziwen, a local breeder. More local villagers have become butterfly breeders like Wu, hoping to "strike gold" from the burgeoning "butterfly tourism."
Hu Shaoji, a researcher with Yunnan University, urged more efforts in scientific research on the butterfly valley, so as to turn the rich biodiverse resources into ecological and economic values for local people.