All a flutter

Blue and white butterfly voted national icon in run up to Independence Day

The common blue butterfly beats out 139 winged contestants; southern white admiral comes in second, followed by African monarch in third

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

The common blue butterfly. (Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)
The common blue butterfly. (Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The common blue butterfly, which, like Israel’s national flag, sports the colors blue and white, was declared the country’s national butterfly on Sunday after a vote involving tens of thousands of schoolchildren and members of the general public.

The announcement, made in the presence of Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman, came in the run-up to Israel’s 75th birthday on Wednesday.

The common blue butterfly, whose males are distinguished by their metallic blue colors, flies for most of the year throughout most of the country. The males’ wings are blue on top with a black-brown border and a white fringe. The females are usually brown above, with a shimmer of blue and orange spots.

The distinctive species beat 139 other butterfly types, which were subsequently whittled down to 24, then 12. The common blue butterfly joined the hoopoo (national bird), the anemone (national flower), the olive (national tree), and the Canaan dog (national dog), as symbols.

The southern white admiral winged it to second-most loved butterfly, followed in third position by the African monarch.

A male southern white admiral. (Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Iris Hahn, the outgoing director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), described butterflies as signs of a healthy and functioning ecosystem, noting that their continued existence in the country would depend on the preservation of open space for them to live in.

Doron Markel, chief scientist at the KKL-JNF Jewish National Fund, pointed to the importance of butterflies as pollinators.

A male African monarch butterfly. (Jee & Rani Nature Photography, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Butterfly populations are in decline in Israel and across the globe, as development eats away at their habitats, and chemical pesticides and herbicides kill the plants on which they depend for nectar and laying eggs.

The contest was initiated by the National Butterfly Lovers of Israel Association, in partnership with nature organizations including the KKL-JNF, the SPNI, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.

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