What species of butterfly/moth is this please?

What species is this please?

It's really tiny. That's an oregano leaf.

Location: United Kingdom

Mint moth. We can only see the forewings on this photo. Single gold spot is the giveaway.

Baker: Looking for a dividing line between butterflies and moths


Ken Baker and Cocoa (Photo: Submitted)

“Young female new to town seeks a high-flying guy for a good time. If interested — and I know you are — just follow the perfume trail to me, la femelle du papillon de la nuit.”

This is a female moth, newly emerged from its cocoon, advertising her availability for mating by secreting a steady stream of minute sex pheromone molecules into the surrounding air.

Everything sounds better in French.

Le papillon de la nuit, butterfly of the night, is beautiful phrasing for the generally (but not always) drab creature we know as the moth. On the other hand, we might just as correctly refer to a butterfly as une phalène du jour, a moth of the day.

Oklahoma Butterfly & Moth County Records & Species Distribution

John Nelson, Professor Emeritus of Biology at ORU, has been working on the distribution of the butterflies & moths of Oklahoma for over 35 years, through both his own surveys and tracking others' records. These county checklists are the results of that work for which we are greatly indebted to John. Records were compiled into the county checklist tables by John Fisher.

As Oklahoma Coordinator for the Lepidopterists Society, Dr. Nelson submits new & other significant records to the Society for inclusion in their annual Season Summary report & database. These records & those from other states are used to update the range maps on the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center site when funding is available.

Why Should I Report County Records?

Since many species only fly for a few weeks each year, a species may not known from a particular county simply because no one was at the right place & time to see it. For example, the 'Olive' Juniper Hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus gryneus, was first documented in Osage County in June, 2002 and Tulsa, Pawnee, Creek, & Washington Counties in April, 2004. Does this mean the 'Olive' Juniper Hairstreak is a recent immigrant into these counties? Maybe, maybe not. It does mean no one has seen, documented, and reported the 'Olive' Juniper Hairstreak from these Counties before. Since Eastern Red-cedar, the host plant of the Juniper Hairstreak is very common in these counties the hairstreak has probably been there all along but we just didn't know it.

County distribution records like these and the data behind them are the basis for the range maps found on-line & in field guides. The more complete our information is, the more accurate those maps will be. Many of these maps in our field guides are based on interpolated data from only a few widely spaced records. By reporting where a species is or is not found we can increase the accuracy of these maps. These data also serve to help determine what species need protection due to their rarity or vulnerability.

New insights into the evolution of butterfly and moth vision

Natural history-based questions combined with novel molecular data often lead to new insights about evolution. Comparing butterflies and moths' visual genes between day and night-flying species revealed that day-flying species had more duplications and faster rates of opsin evolution.


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Butterflies and moths are endlessly fascinating, with their bright, eye-catching colors, shapes, and patterns. Although butterflies catch our attention, basking in the sun and flitting amo ng flowers, we often ignore their nocturnal counterparts, moths. Moths can be equally, if not more, colorful and visually striking, and are often easier to encounter reliably since most are attracted to ultraviolet (UV) light (Fig. 1). They also make up almost 75% of all lepidopteran species and are important nocturnal pollinators. Butterflies and moths together constitute the order of insects called Lepidoptera, which are named for the scales on their wings, from the greek “ lepis ” for scale and “ ptera ” for wings.

Figure 1: Moth light trap in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, NE Himalayas, India. Image copyright Sanjay Sondhi

Butterflies are mostly active during the day (diurnal) and moths are mostly active at night (nocturnal), but there are many exceptions to this rule, with some day-flying moths and even a few night-flying butterflies (Fig. 2). In fact, a recent study [1] showed that activity patterns switched at least 100 different times across the course of butterfly and moth evolution. This made me wonder, why do most moths fly at night? What led some species to switch to flying during the day and how did their visual systems adapt to brighter light environments? These questions seemed harder to answer definitively. Sure, one could come up with explanations, but they would fundamentally be difficult to test since they required peering into the past.

Figure 2: Top : Diurnal (day-flying) moth: Dysphania palmyra (left), nocturnal (night-flying) moth: Atlas moth (Archaeoattacus edwardsii) (right). Bottom : Diurnal butterfly: Bhutan Glory, Bhutanatis lidderdalii (right). Nocturnal butterfly: Hedylid moth butterfly (Macrosoma cf. bhaiata). ( Top: Image 1-2 copyright Sanjay Sondhi, Bottom : Image 4 copyright Pavel Kirillov)

While I was puzzling over these questions, I attended a conference on genetics and adaptation at the National Center for Biological Science in India that was organized by my master’s advisor and mentor, Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte. Dr. Mark Kirkpatrick from the University of Texas Austin held a workshop on a cool technique used to estimate the rates of evolutionary selection that appeared to be the answer to my problems. This technique allows you to examine the rate of evolution across different genes and species and applying these methods to the entire genome or transcriptome of an organism lets us identify exactly where evolution is occurring. I immediately wanted to apply this to butterflies and moths, but I had little idea about how expensive and time-consuming getting genomic data would be. I quickly realized that I could only pursue this avenue if I could convince someone to provide sufficient funding. I was lucky to meet Dr. Adriana Briscoe and Dr. Antonia Monteiro at the same conference where they demonstrated how one didn’t have to generate all the data but could actually re-use publicly available data to answer similar interesting questions. The only thing left was to identify which genes to look at amongst the tens of thousands available.

Opsin genes are fundamental to color vision in both humans and butterflies and, so they were the logical place to start. Alterations in the number and protein sequence of opsins can affect color perception. For example, humans have three opsins involved in color vision, each with peak sensitivities to different wavelengths of visible light: short wavelength (blue), medium wavelength (green), and long-wavelength (red, or more accurately yellow-green). Anomalous or missing opsins produce some form of human color blindness. Like us, butterflies and moths also sense color with three opsins but are shifted to shorter peak sensitivity wavelengths: UV, blue and green. Some butterflies go a little crazy with 7-8 opsins and 12-15 different types of light-sensitive cells (photoreceptor cells).

To examine opsins of the different butterflies and moths for which data was publicly available, I required a working knowledge of the bioinformatic tools. I was just starting my Ph.D. at Miami with Dr. Jamie Theobald, and instead of enjoying the sunny beaches, I buried myself into this project. It was definitely great fun, but it also helped alleviate the homesickness after leaving India. Luckily, I met Dr. Jessica Liberles, an amazing bioinformatics professor at Florida International University who taught a project-based course on bioinformatics. Unlike a more formal lecture-based course, this course gave me the freedom to explore the specific programs I would need to use to study opsins. I even learned how one could go beyond DNA and RNA sequences and instead look at the predicted protein structure of different genes and infer their evolution.

My question was simple, did opsins of day-flying and night-flying butterflies and moths evolve at the same rate, or were there any differences? I used a phylogenetic tree-based approach with a reference dataset to identify and classify the recovered opsins and then estimated their rates of selection. Initial analyses from around 20 butterflies and moths were promising, ultraviolet (UV) opsins appeared to be the only ones with any differences. Excited, I explored this idea further, using a special camera to take images of butterflies and moths under UV light (Fig. 3). I quickly realized that their eyes needn’t perceive UV light differently from other wavelengths and attributing special meaning to this pattern could be foolhardy.

Figure 3: UV-only image (Left) and visible light (Right) photographs of Egybolis valentina.

However, I was unconvinced that the trend was real, especially with such a small dataset. As luck would have it, another project that my co-supervisor, Dr. Akito Kawahara at the University of Florida, was involved with, had generated more than 150 butterfly and moth transcriptomes for an updated pan-Lepidoptera phylogeny [2].

Applying the same analysis techniques on almost 10 times more data did the trick. I picked up more consistent differences in selection across all three opsins. Another surprising pattern that emerged in many species was opsin duplications. While this was demonstrated in a few model butterfly species, it was in no way known to be the norm, and carefully looking at whether they were day-flying, night-flying, or somewhere in between, I was surprised to find that 14 of the 19 independent opsin duplications were in species either partially or exclusively active during the day. This was strong evidence indicating something about diurnal activity favored the retention of more opsins. I was fortunate enough to know two opsin experts, Dr. Emily Ellis and Dr. Seth Bybee, and with their help, we confirmed that this trend wasn’t due to artifacts of variation in transcriptome quality. Delving further, we looked at the specific mutations that were causing this pattern in the diurnal species, and several mapped to the opsin region responsible for tuning color responsiveness. We were finally convinced that we could see a true pattern and were lucky to find supportive reviewers who constructively improved our case, eventually leading to the publication of this work in Communications Biology [3].

Main Families of Butterflies

All butterfly species are classified by the family they belong to. Butterflies in some groups have common identifying features. The main families of butterflies are as follows:

The Nymphalidae family has around 6,000 species of butterflies and include monarchs, admirals, emperors, and tortoiseshells.

Butterflies in the Lycaenidae family contain small species of brightly-colored butterflies and there are also around 6,000 different species.

Hesperiidae, or skippers, are a family of small butterflies that often have antennae pointing backward.

Papilionidae butterflies are identified by wings that seem to have small tails on them.

Pieridae is a family of butterflies from Africa that contains about 1,100 species.

Riodinidae is a group of butterflies with interesting metallic colors on their wings. They are also called metalmark butterflies.

Butterfly and moth communities differ in their response to habitat structure in rainforests of Mount Cameroon

Sylvain Delabye and Robert Tropek, Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Science, Institute of Entomology, Branišovská 31, CZ-37005 Ceske Budejovice, Czechia.

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Forestry, Institute of Silviculture and Forest Protection, University of West Hungary, Sopron, Hungary

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Science, Průhonice, Czechia

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Science, Průhonice, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Department of Zoology and Animal Physiology, Faculty of Science, University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Sylvain Delabye and Robert Tropek, Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Science, Institute of Entomology, Branišovská 31, CZ-37005 Ceske Budejovice, Czechia.

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Sylvain Delabye and Robert Tropek, Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Science, Institute of Entomology, Branišovská 31, CZ-37005 Ceske Budejovice, Czechia.

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Faculty of Forestry, Institute of Silviculture and Forest Protection, University of West Hungary, Sopron, Hungary

Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Science, Průhonice, Czechia

Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Science, Průhonice, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Department of Zoology and Animal Physiology, Faculty of Science, University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Biology Centre, Institute of Entomology, Czech Academy of Science, Ceske Budejovice, Czechia

Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague, Czechia

Sylvain Delabye and Robert Tropek, Biology Centre, Czech Academy of Science, Institute of Entomology, Branišovská 31, CZ-37005 Ceske Budejovice, Czechia.


Mechanisms structuring tropical communities are still under-studied, especially in Afrotropical rainforests. Although insect herbivores are considered to depend on plant diversity, we hypothesized that vegetation structure, together with other microhabitat characteristics, can be more important for some insects. Here, we compared habitat associations of fruit-feeding butterflies and moths, two ecologically different groups of Lepidoptera, in three rainforest localities in foothills of Mount Cameroon, West/Central Africa. Based on a comprehensive dataset of 16,040 specimens of 398 species systematically collected by 240 traps at 48 plots (altogether 9.68 ha), we analyzed how plant community composition, habitat openness, and forest structure affect communities of butterflies and moths. We expected different habitat descriptors to predict communities of the two insect groups. Habitats of tropical fruit-feeding moth communities have never been studied before.

In both analyses of species richness and community structure, butterfly communities depended mostly on forest openness. Moth species richness depended on plant diversity and forest openness, whilst the latter substantially influenced their community composition. Additionally, we revealed differences in habitat associations between understory and canopy communities of both groups. Whilst species richness of understory communities was not influenced by any habitat characteristics, it generally followed the general patterns in canopies. By contrast, composition of understory communities followed the general patterns, whilst effects of habitat characteristics on canopy communities were minor for butterflies and none for moths. The differences between such closely related groups of herbivorous insects warn against generalization based on single-taxon studies and highlight the need of community-wide research of tropical rainforests.


Les mécanismes responsables de la structuration des communautés tropicales sont toujours très insuffisamment étudiés, en particulier dans les forêts Afrotropicales. Bien que les insectes herbivores soient généralement considérés comme dépendant principalement de la composition des communautés de plantes, nous posons l'hypothèse que la structure de la végétation, ainsi que d'autres caractéristiques des microhabitats, peuvent être plus important pour certains groupes d'insectes. Dans ce travail, les auteurs ont comparé les associations de deux groupes de Lépidoptère se distinguant par leur écologie, les papillons de jour et des papillons de nuit frugivores, au sein de trois localités de forêt tropicale situées au piémont du Mont Cameroun, en Afrique de l’Ouest/Centrale. À partir d'un jeu de données complet comprenant 16,040 spécimens pour 398 espèces systématiquement collectés par 240 pièges répartis sur 48 points d’échantillonnages (pour une surface totale de 9.68 ha) dans la végétation sous canopée et dans la canopée et pendant trois saisons différentes, les auteurs ont analysé comment la composition des communautés de plantes, l'ouverture de la canopée et de la structure forestière influencent les communautés de papillons de jour et de papillons de nuit. Nous avons supposé que différents facteurs de l'habitat prédisent les deux communautés. Les habitats des communautés de papillons de nuit frugivores tropicaux n‘ont jamais été étudiés auparavant.

L’analyse de la richesse spécifique et de la structure des communautés de papillons de jour a révélé que ces communautés dépendent principalement de l'ouverture de la canopée. La richesse spécifique des papillons de nuit dépendait de la diversité végétale et de l'ouverture de la canopée, alors que cette dernière influençait considérablement leur composition. De plus, nous avons identifié des différences dans la les associations d'habitat entre la canopée et la sous-canopée dans les deux communautés. Alors qu'aucun facteur de l'habitat n'a influencé les richesses spécifiques des communautés de sous-canopée, celles-ci ont suivi les patterns généraux dans la canopée. En revanche, la composition des communautés de sous-canopée s'est calquée sur celle des communautés dans leur ensemble, alors que les effets des facteurs de l'habitat ont été mineurs sur la communauté de papillons de jour en canopée, et absents sur celle des papillons de nuit en canopée. Les différences entre ces groupes d'insectes herbivores si proches mettent en garde contre les généralisations issues d’études basées uniquement sur un seul taxon et mettent l'accent sur la nécessité d’étudier des communautés plus larges dans les forêts tropicales.


Mud-puddling, or simply puddling, is a behaviour most conspicuous in butterflies, but occurs in other animals as well, mainly insects they seek out nutrients in certain moist substances such as rotting plant matter, mud and carrion and they suck up the fluid. Where the conditions are suitable, conspicuous insects such as butterflies commonly form aggregations on wet soil, dung or carrion. [1] From the fluids they obtain salts and amino acids that play various roles in their physiology, ethology and ecology. [2] [3] This behaviour also has been seen in some other insects, notably the leafhoppers, e.g. the potato leafhopper, Empoasca fabae. [4]

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are diverse in their strategies to gather liquid nutrients. Typically, mud-puddling behaviour takes place on wet soil. But even sweat on human skin may be attractive to butterflies such as species of Halpe. [5] [6] More unusual sources include blood and tears. Again, similar behaviour is not limited to the Lepidoptera, and for example, the various species of bees commonly called sweat bees are attracted to various kinds of sweat and tears, including that of humans, and other bee species have been recorded as doing so to various degrees. [7] [8]

In many species puddling behaviour is more commonly seen in males for example, Speyeria mormonia males puddle with a much higher frequency than females. [9] The presence of an assembly of butterflies on the ground acts on Battus philenor, for example, as a stimulus to join the presumptive mud-puddling flock. [1]

In tropical India this phenomenon is mostly seen in the post-monsoon season. The groups generally include several species, particularly members of the families Papilionidae and Pieridae. [10]

Males seem to benefit from the sodium uptake through mud-puddling behaviour with an increase in reproductive success. The collected sodium and amino acids are often transferred to the female with the spermatophore during mating as a nuptial gift. This nutrition also enhances the survival rate of the eggs. [11] [12] [13]

When puddling, many butterflies and moths pump fluid through the digestive tract and release fluid from their anus. In some, such as the male notodontid Gluphisia crenata, this is released in forced anal jets at 3 second intervals. Fluid of up to 600 times the body mass may pass through and males have a much longer ileum (anterior hindgut) than non-puddling females. [14]

Aggregation of butterflies mud puddling

Collective of different butterfly species mud-puddling on a damp stream bed

Spot swordtail excreting excess water after mud-puddling

Some Orthoptera – e.g. the yellow-spined bamboo locust (Ceracris kiangsu) – are attracted to human urine, specifically to the sodium and ammonium ions in it. [15] Those Lepidoptera that are attracted to dung (e.g. Zeuxidia spp.) or carrion seem to prefer ammonium ions rather than sodium. [16] In rotting, the tissues of fruits release sugars and other organic compounds such as alcohols that result from the metabolic processes of decay organisms, used as fuel by butterflies. [17]

In Borneo lowland rain forest, numerous species of butterflies regularly visit decaying fruit to drink. This behavior is mainly opportunistic, though some are highly attracted to old fruit, notably Satyrinae (e.g. Neorina lowii) and Limenitidinae such as Bassarona dunya. [6]

Carrion is usually more intentionally utilized. Carrion-feeders seem to represent a different feeding guild from "classical" mud-puddlers and fruit-feeders. They include diverse taxa, e.g. brush-footed butterflies such as Cirrochroa emalea of the Nymphalinae or the tawny rajah (Charaxes bernardus) of the Charaxinae, as well as gossamer-winged butterflies like Curetis tagalica of the Curetinae or the common imperial (Cheritra freja) of the Theclinae. [6]

Carrion-feeding has evolved independently in several lineages. Specialist carrion-feeders may even have the ability to smell out and home in on rotting meat over hundreds of meters. In the Bornean Charaxinae, specialist (Charaxes bernardus) or opportunistic (some other Charaxes and Polyura) tend to have a markedly larger bulk and smaller wings, making them more dashing, maneuvrable flyers than fruit specialists like Prothoe franck and opportunistic fruit visitors such as Charaxes durnfordi. Other butterflies like most Pieridae, Papilionidae and Morphinae are rarely if ever seen on carrion, dung and rotting fruit, though they may be avid mud-puddlers in the strict sense. Altogether, the Nymphalidae show the highest variety of nutrient-gathering strategies among the butterflies the Limenitidinae have numerous mud-puddlers that also frequently visit dung but avoid fruits and carrion (namely the genus Limenitis), [6] and some which are attracted to any pungent substance. [18]

Certain moths, mainly of the subfamily Calpinae, are somewhat notorious for their blood- and tear-drinking habits. Hemiceratoides hieroglyphica of Madagascar has been noted to visit and suck tears by inserting their proboscis into the closed eyelids of roosting birds. [19] Similar behaviour has been reported in Azeta melanea in Columbia [20] and Gorgone macarea in Brazil. [21] Other cases of moths drinking human tears have been reported from Thailand. [22] Some species of the genus Calyptra are called "vampire moths" as they suck blood from sleeping vertebrates, including humans. Ophthalmotropy (eye-attraction) and lachryphagy (tear drinking) occur in a number of unrelated moths that visit mammals. Mecistoptera griseifusa is a notable example. [22] Stingless bees in the genera Lisotrigona and Pariotrigona visit the eyes of mammals and have been known to cause distress to humans. [23] Dryas iulia has also been observed agitating the eyes of caimans and turtles in order to force tear production, which the male butterflies of the species can drink for minerals. The minerals, which can also be obtained from more typical mud-puddling behavior, are used for the butterfly's spermatophores during sexual reproduction. [24]

Some like it hot: Moth and butterfly species respond differently to climate change

New research led by ecologists at the University of York shows that certain species of moths and butterflies are becoming more common, and others rarer, as species differ in how they respond to climate change.

The September thorn Ennomos erosaria has experienced deteriorating climate, resulting in declines in abundance and distribution size over recent decades (photo credit: Shane Farrell, Butterfly Conservation)

Collaborating with the Natural Environment Research Council&rsquos Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the charity Butterfly Conservation, the University of Reading and Rothamsted Research, scientists analysed how the abundance and distribution of 155 species of British butterflies and moths have changed since the 1970s.

Using data collected by thousands of volunteers through &lsquocitizen science&rsquo schemes, responses to recent climate change were seen to vary greatly from species to species.

Published in Science Advances, this research shows variation among species is attributed to differing sensitivity to climate change, and also because species vary in how much the climate has changed for them (their &lsquoexposure&rsquo).

Sensitivity is a measure of how much species&rsquo numbers change as a result of year-to-year changes in the weather &ndash each species is sensitive to different aspects of the climate, such as winter temperature or summer rainfall. Variation in how much the climate they are sensitive to has changed for them - their &lsquoexposure&rsquo &ndash is also a contributing factor in their varied responses.

Results show that species such as the treble brown spot moth (Idaea trigeminata) and the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) which are sensitive to climate, and for which the climate has improved the most, have experienced the greatest increases in their distribution size and abundance.

Conversely, other species, such as the grizzled skipper butterfly (Pyrgus malvae), the September thorn moth (Ennomos erosaria) and the mouse moth (Amphipyra tragopoginis), have experienced deteriorating climates resulting in declines in abundance and distribution size.

Georgina Palmer, Lead author and Research Associate in the University of York&rsquos Department of Biology, said: &ldquoSpecies are sensitive to different aspects of the climate, which results in species being exposed to different levels of climate change. Nearly two-thirds of the changes in abundance can be explained by these species-specific differences. This means that their responses to climate change may be more predictable than previously recognised.&rdquo

Dr Tom Oliver, Co-author and Associate Professor in Landscape Ecology at the University of Reading, said: &ldquoClimate appears to have a key role in determining the distributions and abundances of species. Our next steps will be to determine the role of habitat availability in influencing species responses as the climate changes.&rdquo

Dr Jason Chapman, Co-author at Rothamsted Research, said: &ldquoThis study utilises large amounts of long-running data collected by volunteers through schemes such as the Rothamsted Insect Survey, run by Rothamsted Research, and the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, run by Butterfly Conservation. Such data is a valuable resource to scientists, allowing us to describe the changes in distribution and abundance of species and to understand why these changes are taking place.&rdquo

Richard Fox, Head of Recording at Butterfly Conservation, said: &ldquoButterflies and moths provide important ecosystem services such as prey for insectivorous birds, as well as being an important part of our natural heritage. These species have also long been used to study the health of ecosystems, as indicators of biodiversity.

&ldquoThis research allows us to identify species likely to respond favourably to climate change, as well as those which are vulnerable to climate change. The results are surprising and significant as conservationists had assumed that most butterflies and moths in cool, rainy Britain would benefit from climate change, at least in the short term. However, this research suggests many are already declining due to the changing climate.&rdquo

Professor Jane Hill, Co-author and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of York, said: &ldquoWe know that the distributions and abundances of species are affected by climate, and unless we take action to minimise climate change, for example by reducing emissions, these impacts will continue. Our study allows us to target conservation efforts on those species that are most negatively affected by climate, to help them persist under future climate change.&rdquo

Professor Chris Thomas, in the University of York&rsquos Department of Biology, added: &ldquoThe great puzzle has been why some species of moth and butterflies have been increasing and spreading, whilst others have declined in the last 40 years. Now we know that most of the differences arise because each species responds in a different way to the climate. Some like it hot, some like it cold. Some like it hot in winter but not in summer. Some like it wet in spring, others dry in the autumn.

&ldquoIt turns out that these 155 different species of butterflies and moth have almost 155 different &lsquoopinions&rsquo on how much the climate has changed, and whether it has got better or worse. Climate change is causing massive alterations to our wildlife.&rdquo

Butterflies and moths have difficulty adjusting to a rapidly changing climate

Climate change exerts great pressure for change on species and biodiversity. A recent study conducted by the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Environment Institute indicates that the few moth and butterfly species (Lepidoptera) capable of adjusting to a changing climate by advancing their flight period and moving further north have fared the best in Finland. In contrast, roughly 40% of Lepidoptera species have not been able to respond in either way, seeing their populations decline.

Climate change is bringing about rapid change in Finnish nature – can species keep up with the pace? Adjusting to climate change can manifest through earlier phenology such as moth and butterfly flight periods, bird nesting, or plant flowering taking place earlier than before. Species can also adjust by shifting their range further north, as individuals relocate to new areas where conditions have become favourable.

The researchers emphasise that, to preserve biodiversity as climate change intensifies, it is of utmost importance to ensure sufficiently extensive, interconnected and habitats of high-quality which make it possible for species to adjust to the challenges generated by climate change.

The study carried out by the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Environment Institute compared temporal shifts in the flight period of 289 moths and butterflies and spatial shifts in their northern range boundary, as well as changes in abundance over a roughly 20-year period.

“Roughly 45% of the species that we studied had either moved northward or advanced their flight period,” says Postdoctoral Researcher Maria Hällfors from the University of Helsinki. “They fared much better than the 40% of the species which had not responded in either way. On average, the populations of these poorly responding species had declined. The largest increase in abundance was seen in the 15% of the species that both moved northward and advanced their flight. This demonstrates that the ability to respond to a changing environment is vital for species.”

Few species have advanced their phenology

Another interesting finding was the fact that while nearly half of the species had moved northward, only 27% had advanced their flight period.

“This finding deviates from observations made elsewhere in Europe where advancing the flight period has been much more common among Lepidoptera,” says Senior Researcher Juha Pöyry from the Finnish Environment Institute.

In Finland, the species that have advanced their flight the most are the ones that overwinter as adults, including the European peacock butterfly. In fact, it appears that Lepidoptera species living in Finland respond more readily by expanding their ranges northward compared to advancing their flight. Species which are found further north than before include the antler moth and the scarce copper.

“It may be that the increasing light in the spring is a more important cue for butterflies and moths to start their flight than temperature on its own,” Pöyry adds.

Sufficient habitats are vital

A potential explanation for the infrequency of species responding optimally, that is, by both advancing their flight and moving northward, could be the scarcity of suitable habitats.

“For organisms to be able to respond to climate change by shifting their range further north, sufficient amounts of suitable habitats of high-quality are needed,” says Mikko Kuussaari, Senior Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute.

The amount of habitats important for many moth and butterfly species has decreased, resulting in population decline for many of them. For example, many butterfly species have suffered from a decrease in meadows.

“Declining populations are usually not able to provide a sufficient basis for the species to spread to new areas. Small populations also contain less genetic diversity that could help the local populations adjust by changing the timing of their flight. ” Kuussaari adds. Indeed, safeguarding biodiversity requires, above all, the maintenance of sufficiently large and interconnected habitats of high-quality .

Long-term monitoring enables research

The study utilised data on Lepidoptera flight periods collected in two long-term monitoring projects coordinated by the Finnish Environment Institute. Of the two, the Finnish national moth monitoring scheme was launched in 1993 and the butterfly monitoring scheme in agricultural landscapes in 1999. A dataset of citizen observations openly available through the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility was utilised to calculate species range boundary shifts.

“Without such long-term monitoring schemes and the great contribution of volunteer butterfly and moth enthusiasts in collecting observations, as well as collaboration between different research organisations, it would be impossible to carry out these kinds of analyses encompassing hundreds of species,” says Associate Professor Marjo Saastamoinen from the University of Helsinki.

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Western monarch butterflies are nearly extinct. California has a plan to save them

I n one of the biggest mobilizations of resources and talent ever organized to save an insect, the state of California is teaming with conservation groups, biologists and scores of citizen scientists to rescue the western monarch butterfly from the brink of extinction.

To do this, they are placing their hopes on an unassuming, poisonous plant called milkweed.

Monarch butterflies, known for their distinctive orange and black pattern, once flocked to California in the millions, spending the winter clumped on trees as they migrated to and from the state’s central coast.

But the population has sharply declined from 4.5 million in the 1980s, dropping to nearly 200,000 in recent decades before taking a precipitous dive in 2018. That year, the population fell to nearly 30,000, and when volunteers counted again in November, it had dropped to fewer than 2,000 – representing a 99% collapse in the last three decades.

“It was really grim,” says Angela Laws, an endangered species conservation biologist with the Xerces Society, which conducts the November population counts using an army of volunteer naturalists.

“It’s alarming that the numbers are so low. But we still have time to save these butterflies.”

Western monarch caterpillars depend on a diet of milkweed for two weeks of their life. Photograph: Courtesy River Partners

Horrified conservationists are scrambling to plant 30,000 of the native milkweed plants, which are crucial to the butterflies’ life cycle, providing food for monarch larvae and adding the touch of poison that makes monarch colors so bright. Monarch caterpillars are entirely dependent on milkweed for two weeks of their life cycle, munching through about 30 leaves before they transform into jade green chrysalises to eventually emerge as butterflies.

“Collectively, it’s a lot of great brains trying to figure out what, if anything, we can do,” said biologist Hillary Sardiñas, who serves as pollinator coordinator for the California department of fish and wildlife. “Monarchs are incredibly iconic. It would be horrible to lose these incredible butterflies that have captured people’s imagination for hundreds of years.”

The state is providing $1.3m for the restoration group River Partners to restore 595 acres (240 hectares) of monarch habitat along rivers and streams in California – while biologists enlist the help of gardeners, nurseries and backyard scientists to do their own plantings and help catalog monarch sightings.

While it is not completely known why the monarch population has collapsed so suddenly, scientists have speculated that the species might be suffering a “death by a thousand cuts”, said Sardiñas.

Workers with River Partners plant milkweed at the Yolo Bypass wildlife area in the Sacramento Valley. Photograph: Courtesy River Partners

Over recent decades, there have been thousands of acres of lost wildland habitat, both in their wintering habitats in such famous butterfly sites as Pacifica and Pismo Beach, and in the agricultural Central Valley of California, through which migrating butterflies must pass in their spring and fall migrations.

Increased use of herbicides has also reduced the amount of milkweed available for monarchs to lay their eggs. The emerging caterpillars feast on the poisonous milkweed, which is what gives them their bright colors of adulthood and makes them poisonous to predators.

In addition, insecticides used in agriculture may be harmful to the monarchs themselves in ways scientists are still struggling to understand. A 2020 study by the Xerces Society and the University of Nevada, Reno, studied various samples of milkweed from around the central valley and found an average of nine different pesticides on each plant.

The species may also be facing threats from global heating. Scientists have found they are emerging from their wintering sites earlier in the spring. Yet the milkweed they need to survive their migrations may not be blooming yet. The vast fires and unusual freezes that have accompanied the climate crisis may also be affecting their life cycles.

Monarch butterflies overwintering in Pismo Beach in 2016. The population has seen a rapid decline in recent years. Photograph: USFWS Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

“It’s really difficult to pinpoint exactly what is the one thing affecting them most,” said Claire Pavelka, a biologist who is working on the project for the non-profit River Partners. She noted that the problems faced by the monarchs could also be harming other insect species important to human survival.

“They’ve been likened to a canary in a coalmine,” she said. “Monarchs are so well studied they’re really charismatic and really well known. But the fact that they’re declining so fast is probably an indicator that a lot of other pollinators, and bees and other butterflies are also declining.”

But Cheryl Schultz, a professor of biology at Washington State University who will be studying the effects of California’s habitat restoration to understand how well the techniques work and how they might be improved to save more monarchs, said butterfly populations are amazingly “bouncy”, varying dramatically from year to year.

“Monarchs are incredibly resilient,” said Schultz, who has studied butterflies in many settings. “I have lots of hope that they can bounce back.”

So while River Partners are planting large sites with milkweed in the Central Valley, the organizers are encouraging everyone to plant milkweed and pollinator-friendly native flowers in their communities with guides offering tips on which varieties to plant. Citizen scientists, who want to help out, can help study the locations of milkweed and monarchs with the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper or join the annual Thanksgiving count.

“People don’t always show a lot of sympathy for insects,” said Laws. “But everybody loves monarchs. It’s great to see people rallying to save these animals.”

The headline of this piece was amended on Friday 4 June 2021 to clarify that the extinction threat refers to western, not eastern, monarch butterflies.

Watch the video: πεταλούδα πριγκίπισσα. παραμυθια. ελληνικα παραμυθια (January 2022).