Ugly Bug Ball? Rome offers tea and butterflies

Tue May 19, 2009 11:05am EDT
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By Eleanor Biles

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Pollution and climate change may be threatening butterfly species but they seem to harbor no resentment to humans at a "Tea with the Butterflies" event being held in Rome's elegant Villa Borghese gardens this month.

Visitors can sip tea from elegant china and nibble biscotti against the backdrop of the frescoed Renaissance Aviary in the city's 17th-century gardens, while studying the life cycle of the beautiful and endangered species at very close quarters.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for people to see such beautiful butterflies," lepidopterist Nicola Moresco told Reuters, as colorful butterflies and moths landed on visitors, provoking squeals of delight and horror from children.

"Unfortunately, because of pollution, these butterflies are increasingly rare to see otherwise," said Moresco.

Extremely sensitive to levels of pollution and alterations of temperature, butterflies are key indicators of environmental change and their declining numbers are of profound concern for environmentalists across Europe.

Recent studies have suggested the continuing climb in European temperatures has already pushed 60 species of butterfly north from their regular habitat.

Several species have also suffered huge losses following decades of destructive farming and forestry.

"The species we have here tend to live for a couple of weeks," said organizer Fabio di Gioia. "But in this protected environment they will survive a bit longer."   Continued...

<p>Event organiser Fabio di Gioia drinks a cup of tea while accompanied by a Silvia butterfly, in the aviary of Galleria Borghese in Rome May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>