Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate change affects the flight period of butterflies in Massachusetts

Date:
February 12, 2013
Source:
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences
Summary:
Biologists have found that butterflies show signs of being affected by climate change in a way similar to plants and bees, but not birds, in the Northeast United States. The researchers focused on Massachusetts butterfly flight periods, comparing current flight periods with patterns going back more than 100 years using museum collections and the records of dedicated citizen scientists. Their findings indicate that butterflies are flying earlier in warmer years.

Photo of frosted elfin butterfly.
Credit: Ernest Williams, Hamilton College

In a new study, Boston University researchers and collaborators have found that butterflies show signs of being affected by climate change in a way similar to plants and bees, but not birds, in the Northeast United States. The researchers focused on Massachusetts butterfly flight periods, comparing current flight periods with patterns going back more than 100 years using museum collections and the records of dedicated citizen scientists. Their findings indicate that butterflies are flying earlier in warmer years.

"Butterflies are very responsive to temperature in a way comparable to flowering time, leafing out time, and bee flight times," says Richard Primack, professor of biology and study co-author. "However, bird arrival times in the spring are much less responsive to temperature." As a result, climate change could have negative implications for bird populations in the Northeast, which rely on butterflies and other insects as a food source. The team, which includes Caroline Polgar (Boston University), Sharon Stichter (Massachusetts Butterfly Club), Ernest Williams (Hamilton College), and Colleen Hitchcock (Boston College) will publish its findings in the February 12 online edition of the journal Biological Conservation.

While the effect of climate change on plant and bird life cycles in eastern North America has been well examined, studies of the effects of climate change on insects are rare, so these findings represent an important contribution. This new study investigated whether the responses to climate warming in Massachusetts of ten short-lived butterfly species known as elfins and hairstreaks are similar to responses seen in plants, birds and bees. Another unique feature of this study is its use of data from museum collections as well as data gathered by the Massachusetts Butterfly Club, a group of dedicated citizen scientists who love butterflies. Use of this data gave the researchers an opportunity to compare butterfly flight periods dating back to the late 1800s.

The researchers obtained over 5000 records of butterflies in flight using museum collections (1893-1985) and citizen science data (1986-2009), then analyzed the data using statistical models to determine how butterfly flight times are affected by temperature, rainfall, geographic location, and year.

The researchers found that the start of the butterfly flight period advances on average by two days for each degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature. The response of these butterfly species to temperature is similar to plant flowering times and bee flight times and is significantly greater than bird arrival times, which increases the likelihood of ecological mismatches with migratory birds arriving after the first spring flush of their insect food.

The researchers also found that observations by citizen science groups such as the Massachusetts Butterfly Club were an effective and largely untapped source of information that could be used to investigate the potential impacts of climate change on butterflies. Such data provides an opportunity to inform conservation policies on these species and associated habitat. While data from museums was helpful, it was less abundant and therefore less useful than the citizen science dataset.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Caroline A. Polgar, Richard B. Primack, Ernest H. Williams, Sharon Stichter, Colleen Hitchcock. Climate effects on the flight period of Lycaenid butterflies in Massachusetts. Biological Conservation, 2013; 160: 25 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.12.024

Cite This Page:

Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Climate change affects the flight period of butterflies in Massachusetts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212154414.htm>.
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. (2013, February 12). Climate change affects the flight period of butterflies in Massachusetts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212154414.htm
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Climate change affects the flight period of butterflies in Massachusetts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130212154414.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins