Extermination of butterflies: environmental care or superstitious fear?

Since early May all towns of Turkmenistan has been experiencing the invasion of butterflies known as painted ladies, aphids and ladybirds.

On 19 May the progovernmental media outlet Orient hurried to admire the beauty which have filled the city and announce the anomaly an indicator of Ashgabat's environmental wellbeing.

However, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov totally disagrees with this point of view and instructed that the capital be cleared of butterflies and other insects and the violations of environmental standards be eliminated.

Tractors which are sprinkling unidentified chemicals can be seen on the streets of Ashgabat.

Chronicles of Turkmenistan contacted the environmentalist Andrei Zatoka, who believes there is nothing abnormal in this phenomenon and asked him to provide comment.

�Vanessa cardui is one of the most widespread of all butterflies. It lives on weed plants such as thistle, nettle and achillea. The butterflies are harmless and are eaten by birds, hedgehogs and other animals, the environmentalist said.

According to him, mass reproduction of Vanessa cardui, as well as other insects is a recurrent phenomenon and is attributed to a combination of favourable factors. As a rule, such outbreaks are not lengthy and end up with mass death of insects from predators, parasites and diseases. Nothing needs to be done as it is a selfregulatory process. On the other hand, the extermination of butterflies, especially with the help of chemicals, will result in a longterm environmental misbalance and it is going to negatively affect birds, plants and people alike.

These methods should not be used when it comes to exterminating aphids. Whatever their population, they will be gone in June until autumn since they are unable to withstand heat and are actively eaten by ladybirds. However, if the enemies of aphids are also poisoned, their population will significantly increase in autumn, since they are much more resistant to poisons than ladybirds and they will be mating at breakneck pace, the expert warned and called on the Turkmen authorities to restore the network of nature reserves and carry out the annual monitoring of the insect population.

If Berdymukhammedov wants to be knowledgeable about what is going on in Turkmenistan's nature rather than to make an education guess, he should focus on restoring and developing the network of nature reserves and invite overseas practice, which is a common practice in civilized countries, the environmentalist sums up.

At the same time an expert of Chronicles of Turkmenistan (his name is withheld at his request) put forward another version behind Berdymukhammedov's fight against insects.

This is not about caring about the environment but the problem is that such invasions of butterflies, according to Turkmen popular beliefs, are bad sign, predicting poor harvests and other misfortunes. For this reason the insect extermination campaign was launched in Ashgabat. It might sound absurd but taking into account that the President is susceptible to various superstitions, this explanation is logical and consistent from the perspective of his predictions about rich crops and good years, the interlocutor of Chronicles of Turkmenistan said.

Let us recall that the state information agency has recently explained the obsession of the head of the state with number 7, which, as it turned out, is symbolic for Turkmens.

Berdymukhammedov makes annual predictions based on the oriental calendar.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan