This assembly looks forward to the coming of summer and thinks about what it would be like without butterflies, by focusing on some of the endangered species found in BritainButterfly summer

Butterfly lovers are hoping for a warm summer. Last year’s rains badly affected several butterfly species, including the Common Blue, one of the most widespread butterfly species in the UK. This assembly looks forward to the coming of summer and thinks about what it would be like without butterflies.

Resources

You will need to have access to pictures of butterflies and hawthorn:

  • A picture of a Duke of Burgundy
  • A picture of a Common Blue
  • A picture of a Blue Hawthorn blossom

Introduction

On Thursday it’s 1 May. Traditionally this means it’s the last month of spring and that summer is on its way. Who can tell me which months go with which season? (Take suggestions.)

Spring: March, April, May. Summer: June, July, August. Autumn: September, October, November. Winter: December, January, February.   

That’s right, although sometimes nature doesn’t always agree with us about when spring, or summer, or any other season is due to start. One of the first signs that summer is on its way is blossom on the hawthorn tree. (Show picture.)

The hawthorn tree has thin, grey branches with little thorns on them, but, in May, it is covered in a cloud of tiny, white, flowers which have the most beautiful, sweet smell. Some people call hawthorn blossom the May Flower. Can you guess why? (Take suggestions.)

Yes, that’s right. It’s called the May Flower because it usually flowers in May. Except, this year, we’ve been seeing Hawthorn blossom in April. Some people think this is a sign that a warm, dry summer is on its way. Who do you think might be looking forward to a warm, dry summer? (Take suggestions.)

Those are some good answers. Most people look forward to warm summer days when we can sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. Hawthorn blossom is one sign that summer is on its way. Can you think of anything else that shows that summer is around the corner? (Take suggestions.)

Again, some good ideas. One thing many people look forward to is seeing colourful butterflies fluttering around flowers. Butterflies are only seen for a few months during the summer and early autumn. And, this year, Britain’s butterflies are particularly looking forward to a warm, dry summer.


The story of our butterflies

Do you remember what it was like last summer? It rained. A lot. In fact lots of people got flooded out of their homes because there was so much rain, the rivers were too full and spilt over into people’s gardens and houses. It was terrible for a lot of people, but it was really bad news for butterflies, too. In fact it was the worst year for butterflies for twenty-five years.    Butterflies need warm, dry weather to feed and breed. If it’s too wet, baby caterpillars don’t have the right food to eat and they die. Of course, caterpillars turn into butterflies. It’s one of those amazing facts of nature that ugly little, bristley caterpillars turn into beautiful butterflies − but only if the climate is right for them.   

The Common Blue butterfly (Show picture) is one of the butterfly species that was particularly badly affected last summer. It’s called ‘Common Blue’ because there are supposed to be lots and lots of them. But last year there weren’t and now Britain is in danger of losing this beautiful butterfly for good.   

Another butterfly that is in danger of becoming extinct is the marvellously-named Duke of Burgundy. (Show picture)

People who work for the prime minister are beginning to be worried − biodiversity minister, Joan Ruddock, said that the government would support recovery projects.    ‘Butterflies are a vital element of the British summer,’ she said. ‘Their numbers indicate whether or not there are problems in the countryside.    ‘Butterfly populations also indicate the speed and extent of climate change. We will provide every encouragement for those working to conserve them.’ And it’s not just changing weather that is a threat to butterflies. Most butterflies feed on wild flowers in grassy meadows. In the last fifty years, Britain has lost ninety seven per cent of meadowland and the numbers of butterflies are declining fast. Increased use of pesticides and insecticides in farming hasn’t helped, either.


Conclusion

It would be very sad if future generations couldn’t enjoy these beautiful, harmless creatures fluttering in the summer sunshine. But there are things we can do to help butterflies. We can leave natural areas of our gardens to allow wildflowers to grow. This will encourage butterflies and help preserve these lovely insects.

Prayer

Dear Father, Thank you for the beautiful creatures that share our world with us. Help us to look after them and their natural habitats. Amen. ‘May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun And find your shoulder to light on, To bring you luck, happiness and riches Today, tomorrow and beyond.’ Irish Blessing

Reflection

We share this planet with millions and millions of animal, insect and plant species. Too often we take more than our fair share and can too easily permanently alter natural habitats, with some species becoming extinct. We must learn to share the Earth more fairly.   

Things to think about…

  • If you are interested in helping butterflies contact: Butterfly Conservation, Manor Yard, East Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5QP. Tel 01929 406209
  • An excellent website that has lots of information and school resources is www.insectlore-europe.com You can also order ‘butterfly kits’ for children. You will be sent butterfly larvae and children can watch them develop into butterflies which can later be released into the wild.
  • For Reception and Year 1: ‘Butterfly Kiss‘ by Charles Fuge and Vicki Churchill of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle.
  • In April the UK Met Office issued its long-range seasonal forecast for the summer. It suggested that the UK faced a summer with temperatures and rainfall slightly above the long-term average, although the floods of last year are not expected.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2008

About the author: Jane West

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