Living in Hungary feels extra special after watching Netflix’s documentary series Our Planet. Elements of Hungary’s wildlife appear not once but twice in the eight-part series narrated by David Attenborough. Here is everything you need to know.
Our Planet is a British nature documentary series made for Netflix. It was created in collaboration with Silverback Productions and WWF. The series is narrated by David Attenborough, and it was filmed over four years. It combines breath-taking photography of planet Earth with raising awareness to what our actions and the results of climate change do to the remaining wilderness areas and their animal inhabitants.
The series won two Emmy awards for Outstanding Documentary Series and Outstanding Narrator in 2019. The eight-part original documentary series is streaming globally on Netflix.
The series includes two clips that were captured in Hungary.
The blooming of the Tisza river
Interestingly, what we Hungarians call a tiszavirág (tisza flower) is in fact an insect and not a flower. Tiszavirág (or Palingenia longicauda) is an aquatic insect, named after the Tisza river, where it is found. It is also called the long-tailed mayfly or giant mayfly because it is the largest mayfly species in Europe (12 cm from head to tail).
In the 7th episode of Our Planet titled ‘Fresh Water,’ there is a segment on the wonderful natural phenomenon that happens every year on the Tisza river. The clip can be seen from 16:35.
Tiszavirág larvae develop underwater for as long as three years before hatching. The presence of mayflies is a great indicator of clear, unpolluted water.
Mayflies hatch and mature during one week in June. This natural phenomenon is known as Tiszavirágzás (“blooming of the Tisza”). Millions of larvae become winged adults who have only a few hours to mate before they die. While they are mating, they perform this beautiful dance on the river. They fly very low, never moving away from the water.
We can learn from the clip that this spectacle used to be quite common in Eastern Europe, but due to the stabilised banks, the rivers become badly polluted, causing the majority of mayflies to disappear.
The unbelievably complex life cycle of the Alcon blue
In the 5th episode of Our Planet titled ‘From Deserts to Grasslands,’ creators focus on a species of butterfly with an “almost unbelievably complex life cycle.” The clip can be seen from 32:49.
The ancient hay meadows of Hungary are still farmed in the traditional way. Only a few of these ancient meadows are left in Europe. Butterflies are abundant here; most extraordinary of them is probably the Alcon blue.
Females lay their eggs only on one species of plant: the marsh gentian. The eggs hatch into caterpillars who abseil down on threads of silk to the ground. They are producing a scent similar to that of an ant larva, so marauding ants carry them off to their nest. They deposit them into the colony’s brood chamber so that the caterpillars lie amongst the ant larvae and the nurse ants feed them like their own. In fact, caterpillars can mimic the sound of the queen ant. The ants tend to feed the caterpillars rather than their own larvae when food is short. The caterpillars feed and grow for up to two years underground until they pupate. A few weeks later, an Alcon blue butterfly crawls out.
If anything happened to the ants or to the marsh gentian, they would become extinct.
You can watch the behind the scenes below.