Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Nature can be remarkably adaptable. Many examples have been documented of how wildlife has profitably used modern eyesores. Old cars dumped offshore create artificial reefs where fish, mollusks and crustaceans thrive. Once-rare peregrine falcons make their homes on microwave relay towers.

Now, one of the ugliest wounds man has cut into the landscape has been found to have its good side, too. Butterflies love interstates.

“Highways are of major importance for butterflies,” reports Jeff Boetner, a University of Massachusetts entomologist, who discovered that Silvery Blues (pictured), Common Ringlets and other species are extending their ranges, thanks to the interstate highway system. As one observer put it, “viewed from the perspective of a butterfly, an interstate highway is just an endless, sun-drenched field.”

This is especially true of roads that have been planted with wildflowers, a project many states have taken on more aggressively than our own. Be they herbs or shrubs, plantings help reduce the ugliness of expressways; if they provide food and shelter for wandering butterflies and birds, so much the better.

Now if our winged friends could only learn to fly above – not through – the traffic…

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