This study analyses of spatiotemporal variation in species richness and reconstructed range expansions of butterflies in 51 provinces throughout Sweden and Finland signal an overall dramatic increase in insect biodiversity over the past 120 years in this northern part of Europe with a 21% increase in lareg part due to climate change of approx 2'C but also habitat changes have had a significant impact.The results further support that the ability of butterflies to colonise new areas in pursuit of favourable conditions increases according to certain species attributes, specifically range size, thermal niche breadth, larval diet breadth, and habitat use, thus ultimately leading to more generalist and species rich communities.
The last leg of the longest butterfly migration has now been identified.
Scientists at Imperial college unravel the long running mystery of why Moths ( and other insects) fly around lights.
Very simply light allows an insect to orientate up and down movement by always having the light(sun or moon) on its back allowing it to fly straight and level. If it encounters artificial light then it trys the same turning its back (and bum) towards the light, in effect flying backwards in a rough circle around the source attempting to keep its back towards the light which you can clearly see from the stop motion movie below. As we know lots of accidents happen moving fast butt first, like falling into a moth trap as your legs are facing the wrong way! The article continues with a possible practical fix for the growing problem of light pollution is to direct all the light downwards and none sideways or upwards which would confuse nocturnal flyers. More HERE
Use of a ultraviolet torch as a survey method by Sussex University for surveying one of the UK’s rarest butterflies – The Black Hairstreak
The article concludes that nocturnal UV flashlight surveys have the potential to serve as a reliable and consistent methodology for determining presence, population density and distribution for Black Hairstreak butterflies and potentially other cryptic or elusive species. Article HERE This method could prove useful for the other rarer hairstreaks in addition. The best time to try this is around now as the overwintered larvae begin to grow very quickly., this can also be used for finding many other caterpillar species and their pupa.
One of the most uplifting sights of spring is the rich orange of the male Orange Tip. It is beautifully complemented by the green 'parsley' of its underside that works as a brilliant camoflage when roosting on the flower heads of Cow Parsley and with the orange tucked away beneath it becomes near invisible. The closer you get the more beautiful and intricate patterns become... Can you see the bright yellow eye liner? The green colouration is actually made up of a variable dusting of black scales mixed with yellow scales along with white and is not green at all.
Yorkshire has always been near the northern limit for this species which declined to a low point by 1940 when it was largely confined to South Yorkshire and a few sheltered woods and valleys elsewhere. As global warming accelerated especially during the warm spells of 1975-76 and 1983-84 rapid expansion occured which continues to this day (10% in the last 20 years see graph below). Over the same 80 years the Orange Tip has largely lost its prefered foodplant: Cuckoo flower or Cardamine pratensis from which the butterfly gets the second part of its latin name. This plant was once common on damp meadows but is now a threatened species in parts of Europe. Agricultural intensification has caused the loss of 98% of our traditional meadows and along with drainage and laterly nitrogen pollution cause stronger growing sedges and grasses to outcompete and stifle Cuckoo flower. Nitrogen is one of the gravest threats to many of our butterfly species. Over the last 40 years Orange Tip has succesfully switched more and more to Garlic Mustard as its foodplant which has thrived in the recent run warmer wet springs and prefers a rich soil helping the butterfly population boom near fourfold in the last 20 years (See graph) This boom is mirrored through Europe with the switch to Garlic Mustard . Eggs are laid on Honesty, Dames Violet and Hedge Mustard but larvae do not often survive. 2019 was the last boom year and this next week will see the peak of its flight period ..Could 2023 beat it??
Do Moths have Pupils?
To work effectively, the eyes of nocturnal insects have a problem they must overcome. During the night, the light levels are low, so their eyes need to be very sensitive; but they also need a way of adapting to environmental light conditions, and protecting those sensitive organs, if a bright light is encountered. Human eyes have a pupil that changes size to regulate light input to the eye. Moths (Lepidoptera) use a light absorbing pigment that moves position to limit the light within the eye. This article looks closely at how this works demonstrating for the first time the process. Interstingly it takes 10 mins for the moth to adapt.
28th October Lancaster University Conference 2022
Entitled 'Can we save our rare butterflies and moths' it took place on 29th October and was an exceptional butterfly experience with near 200 attendees! Bringing together academics, farmers, recorders, students, conservationists, authors, lepidopterists and a host of butterfly enthusiasts from across northern england it was a showcase for the scientific research going on in the north west to save our scarce species. Highlights included an introduction by Matthew Oates with his colourful review of this year, weather facts and his unique experience of our species; absolutely fascinating insights. The real highlight of the day were the students presentations over a whole range of species and topics (some of them in the carousel above). They covered the serious negative effects of nitrogen disposition as well as conserving the High Brown Fritillary and the Small/Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Not forgetting moths with a study of rare species on the Limestone pavement and the habitat of the Forester Moth. Chris Winnick summarised the success story in Cumbria of the Marsh Fritillary which has gone from 1 dieing colony back to to now a naturally expanding 30 plus utilising hybridisation/ captive breeding.
Lee Scholfield gave an impassioned heart warming talk about the RSPB Hawswater rewilding project. He described how the project and how it combined with sustainable agriculture and included hypnotic images from his book 'High Fell. With beautiful descriptions of the fragments of this original upland landscape that still exists he guided you to see how rewilding was going to work based on how the highlands used to look to bringing back nature after the ravages of sheep farming under the CAP. A full report will appear in the Spring edition of the Argus
Why do dryer/chalky sites give Meadow Brown an earlier start plus a much extended flight period?
A puzzle investigated by Reading scientists in a wide ranging study. They prove that this is not genetic or adaption but drought/steepeness along with the presense of chalk is key. Chalk sites are not only earlier but have a long slow tail off sometimes reaching into October with a peak considerably later than non chalk sites They conclude that this is largely due to warm chalk slopes producing adults earlier but then delays in development of larvae on dryer areas produce much later. Fresh males and females presently being seen around Yorkshire are likely to be due to later devloping larvae forced to hibernated in the hot weather. Full article HERE
Complex patterns of trends in UK moth populations
Black Arches(above) is one of the winners in a new study led by Butterfly Conservation scientists, in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, has revealed HERE the complex patterns of change among Britain’s larger moths. Woodland moths tend to be faring well, whereas moths associated with moorland show stronger declines than those breeding in other habitats. There are several possible factors at work including the increasing frequency of moorland burning and the impacts of nitrogen pollution on plant communities. Clouded Buff and Grey Mountain Carpet are moorland species declining strongly in distribution. Woodland moths are responding positively to an overall increase in woodland cover in the UK in recent decades including Black Arches, Red-green Carpet and Maiden’s Blush.
How to conserve butterflies and moths
Moth traps work better with interception vanes,
The Wall Butterfly genetically adapts as it moves north with climate change in order to hibernate at the correct time:
Does this kill the 'suicide' generation theory we have used to explain the widescale disappearance of this species in the UK ?
A Swedish study on the endangered Wall looks at how it is adapting with shifting its range in northwards with climate change. In particular Finland, Sweden and Estonia has seen considerable range movement as temperatures increase but daylength, the trigger for hibernation, changes as you move north. So how has it adapoted? They prove that caterpillars are indeed using daylength as their trigger but has moved more than hour longer compared to the southern population they recently left behind to compensate for longer summer days, plus, this trait was also inherited. Does this finally dismiss the lost (3rd) generation theory due to climate warming often touted as the reason for the Wall's decline ? Article HERE
What works in conservation of Butterflies and moths
Complex pattern of trends in UK's large Moths are tricky to unravel
A new study led by Butterfly Conservation scientists, in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, has revealed HERE the complex patterns of change among Britain’s larger moths. Woodland moths tend to be faring well, whereas moths associated with moorland show stronger declines than those breeding in other habitats. There are several possible factors at work including the increasing frequency of moorland burning and the impacts of nitrogen pollution on plant communities. Clouded Buff and Grey Mountain Carpet are moorland species declining strongly in distribution. Woodland moths are responding positively to an overall increase in woodland cover in the UK in recent decades including Black Arches, Red-green Carpet and Maiden’s Blush.
Radio tracker moths reveal the extreme distance, precision and ability to control their direction of flight
A Swedish study on the endangered Wall looks at how it is adapting with shifting its range in northwards with climate change.
Finland, Sweden and Estonia has seen considerable range movement as temperatures increase but daylength, the trigger for hibernation, changes as you move north. So how has it adapoted? This study prove that caterpillars are indeed using daylength as their trigger but has moved more than hour longer compared to the southern population they recently left behind to compensate for longer summer days, plus, this trait was also inherited. Does this finally dismiss the lost (3rd) generation theory due to climate warming often touted as the reason for the Wall's decline ? Article HERE
The first Genetic Atlas of European and North African Butterfly species
Recorder decision-making when recording species and observations into recorder motivations
Citizen scientists play an increasingly important role in biodiversity monitoring. Most of the data, however, are unstructured—collected by diverse methods that are not documented with the data. Insufficient understanding of the data collection processes presents a major barrier to the use of citizen science data in biodiversity research. Respondents were most often motivated by improving species knowledge and supporting conservation, but there were no linkages between motivations and data collection methods. By contrast, variables related to experience and knowledge, such as membership of a natural history society, were linked with a greater propensity to conduct planned searches, during which typically all species were reported. Our findings have implications for how citizen science data are analysed in statistical models; highlight the importance of natural history societies
A insightful report in the authorative 'Nature' journal about Recorder decision-making when recording species and observations into recorder motivations. Nearly 80% of all data collected is unstructured; collected by diverse methods that are not documented with the data. Insufficient understanding of the data collection processes presents a major barrier to the use of citizen science data in biodiversity research. Respondents were most often motivated by improving species knowledge and supporting conservation, but there were no linkages between motivations and data collection methods. By contrast, variables related to experience and knowledge, such as membership of a natural history society, were linked with a greater propensity to conduct planned searches, during which typically all species were reported. More HERE
Motivations of respondents to collect species observation data. Respondents were asked to rate the importance of each item. Items are ordered in the plot by the % responding ‘important’ or ‘very important’.
Survey patterns: (a) the proportion of species observation data that are made by an active/planned search compared with observations that were opportunistic; (b) species that are reported during an active/planned search; (c) triggers of an opportunistic observation; (d) locations/habitats in which people actively look for species.
Emerging technologies revolutionise insect ecology and monitoring Roal van Klink
Recent technological advances have the potential to revolutionise insect ecology and monitoring. We describe the state of the art of four technologies (computer vision, acoustic monitoring, radar, and molecular methods), and assess their advantages, current limitations, and future potential. We discuss how these technologies can adhere to modern standards of data curation and transparency, their implications for citizen science, and their potential for integration among different monitoring programmes and technologies. We argue that they provide unprecedented possibilities for insect ecology and monitoring, but it will be important to foster international standards via collaboration.
Threats to insects @ RES conference July 2022
Investigating the mechanisms behind moth declines: plants, landscape, pollution and climate
There is widespread concern that species will fail to track climate change if habitat is too scarce or insufficiently connected. Targeted restoration has been advocated to help species adapt, and a “conductance” metric has been proposed, based on simulation studies, to predict effective habitat configurations. However, until now there is very little empirical evidence on how the configuration of habitat is affecting expansion at species' cool range margins. We analysed the colonisation events that have occurred in continuously monitored trap locations for 54 species of southerly distributed moths in Britain between 1985 and 2011. We tested whether the time until colonisation was affected by attributes of each species, and of intervening landcover and climate between the trap and the baseline distribution (1965–1985). For woodland species, the time until colonisation of new locations was predicted by the “conductance” of woodland habitat, and this relationship was general, regardless of species' exact dispersal distances and habitat needs. This shows that contemporary range shifts are being influenced by habitat configuration as well as simple habitat extent. For species associated with farmland or suburban habitats, colonisation was significantly slower through landscapes with a high variance in elevation and/or temperature. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that such relatively tolerant species face no geographical barriers to range expansion. We thus elucidate how species' attributes interact with landscape characteristics to create highly heterogeneous patterns of shifting at cool range margins. Conductance, and other predictors of range shifts, can provide a foundation for developing coherent conservation strategies to manage range shifts for entire communities. more HERE
Woodland species can spread orders of magnitudes faster through habitats with high 'conductance'
Have you ever wondered how butterflies evolved?
A huge piece of work by 90 scientists mapped 390 genes from 2000 species to piece togther the answer. The first butterflies evolved 100 million years ago in what is now America and for a considerable period fed on legumes (the pea family) From the tropics they spread into the temperate crossing from America into Europe via the Bering land bridge. Most of the families we know today existed before the extinction of the dinasaurs 55 million years ago. More Here
Airborne DNA used to detect insect species in breakthrough for ecologists
Anti-Bat Ultrasound Production in Moths
JR Barber, D Plotkin, JJ Rubin, NT Homziak, BC Leavell, P Houlihan, KA Miner, JW Breinholt, B Quirk-Royal, PS Padrón, M Nunez, AY Kawahara published 1/10 2021 and released HERE
This fascinating and fine detailed article looks in depth at how prevalent moths are in giving ultrasonic response to echo-locating bat attack This study trapped moths with UV lights and broadcast pre-recorded bat sonar attack sequences to moths in tethered flight, across the world’s tropics. The study played representative calls from bat species of both frequency-modulated and constant-frequency bats calls . We recorded moth responses to playback of sonar attack and found that 52 of 252 tested genera respond acoustically to both types of bat sonar. Far more than was known before where most studies looked at Tiger and Hawk Moths with their known reponse. The study reports that this striking anti-predator behavior is widespread across the tapestry of lepidopteran diversity (Fig 2). In fact, if we extrapolate from our sample, ∼20% of the estimated 100,000 species. In addition to playback of bat attack, we also queried moths for ultrasonic response to handling. We simulated a physical predatory attack by grasping the thorax, abdomen, and head. Nearly all moth species that broadcast anti-bat sounds upon hearing sonar also produced ultrasonic disturbance sounds when handled. Three subfamilies from three different families (Erebidae: Erebinae, Crambidae: Spilomelinae, Sphingidae: Smerinthinae) produced ultrasound only in response to tactile stimulation. Producing ultrasound to touch may be a generalized anti-predator response intended to startle attackers.
A molecular phylogeny of Lepidoptera indicating anti-predator ultrasound production across the order. Bars and nodes with magenta outlines represent taxa associated with sufficiently large duty cycle values (>18%) for sonar jamming. Asterisks indicate taxa known to produce ultrasound, but not in response to either tactile stimuli nor bat ultrasound. Grayscale images indicate taxa that do not produce ultrasound. This phylogeny is meant to illustrate the diversity of ultrasound production and offer broad strokes on the origins of anti-predator sounds at the family and subfamily level.
The study went on to discover three new ways moths produce ultrasound in addition to the two methodes known previously :
Anti-bat ultrasound-producing structures. A-D. Mittonia hampsoni (Pyralidae: Pyralinae) produces ultrasonic clicks in flight via modified scales on the tegula; A. Scale bar = 1.0 cm; B. Tegula, 0.2 mm; C. Tegular scales, 50 μm; D. Response to bat sonar playback (Mittonia hampsoni), 100 ms). E-H. Lymantria sp. (Erebidae: Lymantriinae) generates ultrasound with paired tymbals recessed in abdominal pockets; E. Scale bar = 1.0 cm; F. Arrow indicates one of the tymbal pair, 1.0 mm; G. Close up of one tymbal, 0.5 mm; H. Response to bat sonar playback (Lymantria sp.), 100 ms. I-L. Melese sp. (Erebidae: Arctiinae) emits ultrasound with paired thoracic tymbals; I. Scale bars = 1.0 cm; J. Tymbal 0.5 mm; K. Close-up of microstriations on tymbal surface, 0.1 mm; L. Response to bat sonar playback (Melese peruviana), 100 ms. M-P. Gonodonta sicheas (Erebidae: Calpinae) produces ultrasound by stridulating modified abdominal scales; M. Scale bar = 1.0 cm; N. Patch of stridulatory scales, 0.5 mm; O. Stridulatory scale, Scale bar = 50 μm; P. Response to bat sonar playback (Gonodonta bidens), 100 ms. Q-T. Xylophanes falco (Sphingidae: Macroglossinae) produces ultrasound by stridulating modified genital valves; Q. Scale bar = 1 cm; R. Patch of stridulatory scales on genital valve, 0.5 mm; S. Stridulatory scales, 0.2 mm; T. Response to bat sonar playback (Xylophanes amadis), 100 ms.
Street lighting has detrimental impacts on local insect populations
Many of us might remember Callum McGregor's excellent talk this Spring about the effects of street lighting on adult moths and their behaviour and of course the behaviour of their main predators see HERE. He pointed out the blue element of lighting is the most important and old orange sodium lamps are much less disruptive Douglas's work builds on that by examining the effects on the next stage, the caterpillars, which are often the most critical part of an insects life and most easily disrupted. Reported declines in insect populations have sparked global concern, with artificial light at night (ALAN) identified as a potential contributing factor. Despite strong evidence that lighting disrupts a range of insect behaviours, the empirical evidence that ALAN diminishes wild insect abundance is limited. Using a matched-pairs design, we found that street lighting strongly reduced moth caterpillar abundance compared with unlit sites (47% reduction in hedgerows and 33% reduction in grass margins (see diagram below) and affected caterpillar development. A separate experiment in habitats with no history of lighting revealed that ALAN disrupted the feeding behaviour of nocturnal caterpillars. Negative impacts were more pronounced under white light-emitting diode (LED) street lights compared to conventional yellow sodium lamps. This indicates that ALAN and the ongoing shift toward white LEDs (i.e., narrow- to broad-spectrum lighting) will have substantial consequences for insect populations and ecosystem processes. The work begs the question whether cool white LED is a good choice and since LED's can produce any colour we should change to warmer tones of yellow or orange, they are also more efficient at single frequency Full article HERE also Douglas' Blog HERE
The Diopsis Project:
Automated Insect and Moth Recording in Holland
A camera takes pictures of the screen every 10 seconds and is illuminated by UV LED's at night. In the first step of the process, the software analyzes where the photo shows insects. The software distinguishes between insects and other objects in the image, such as mud, grass and shadow by means of a deep learning system. Once the insects have been recognized, their numbers can be easily counted. Insects that were also observed in the previous picture are not counted again. Insects that remain on the screen for hours and are photographed every 10 seconds, count only once. On the right an example of a busy screen at night.
Belgium : Citizen Science Data Reveal That the Peacock Butterfly Aglais io Recently Became Bivoltine
Marc Herremans ,* , Karin Gielen , Jos Van Kerckhoven , Pieter Vanormelingen , Wim Veraghtert , Kristijn R.R. Swinnen and Dirk Maes
The Peacock butterfly is abundant and widespread in Europe. It used to have a single generation per year: adults born in summer overwintered and reappeared in spring to reproduce. However, recent flight patterns in western Europe show three peaks during the year: a first one in spring (overwintering butterflies), a second one in early summer (offspring of the spring generation), and a third one in autumn. Hitherto, it was unclear whether this third autumn flight peak was a second new generation or consisted of butterflies flying again in autumn after a summer rest. Based on hundreds of thousands of observations and thousands of pictures submitted by naturalists from the public to the online portal ‘observation’ in Belgium, we demonstrate that Peacocks shifted towards two new generations per year in recent decades. Mass citizen science data has become increasingly important in tracking the response of biodiversity to rapid environmental changes (e.g., climate change).
Full Article HERE
Nitrogen deposition negatively affects butterfly species richness and butterfly abundance, particularly in species of conservation concern. : A Discussion from Chris van Swaay in Holland
Why has Nitrogen deposition become such an important threat for butterflies?
N-deposition (mainly due to high local ammonia emissions from intensive livestock farming) reaches dozens of km's from the source to deep into even the biggest nature reserves
It acts as a fertilizer increasing the growth rate of plants that can deal with a high N-load, as grasses. This changes the vegetation, succession speeds up and low vegetation and open soil is soon covered by tall grasses.
In combination with climate change this leads to microclimatic cooling creating unsuitable conditions, esp. for larval and egg hibernators (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2006.01202.x…) as this Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia).
Nitrogen deposition in host plants increases the mortality of common Lepidoptera species (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30288608/), e.g. with the Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus). This is probably caused by a shift in the N:P ratio in the foodplants (https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1365-2435.12707…).
This imbalance by overabundance of Nitrogen has a big effect on the nutritional quality of foodplants and its subsequent effects on consumers (https://edepot.wur.nl/530421). Butterflies are more affected by this, a full metamorphosis means a high need of amino acids.
Nitrogen deposition also leads to acidification and a decline in the availability of other nutrients and elements (https://research.wur.nl/en/publications/continuous-and-cumulative-acidification-and-n-deposition-induce-p…).
For a more detailed overview of all pathways for the effects of increased nitrogen deposition on fauna see https://natuurkennis.nl/Uploaded_files/Publicaties/nijssen-etal-2017.0b6d7c.pdf…
We developed a nitrogen index to track changes in butterfly species assemblages under nitrogen deposition (https://research.wur.nl/en/publications/a-nitrogen-index-to-track-changes-in-butterfly-species-assemblage…).
Removing N from nature reserves is almost impossible as that also removes P and other elements. However N is quickly replenished leaving the area in a worse state as before (N:P ratio get further unbalanced).
The only solution is to reduce the Nitrogen emission at the source. This however, is still a step too far for our food producers?
Identifying fine‐scale habitat preferences of threatened butterflies using airborne laser scanning
Associations of two grassland butterflies with LiDAR metrics. (a) Typical habitats of the Small pearl‐bordered fritillary (Boloria selene; a wet grassland species, left) and the Grayling (Hipparchia semele; a dry grassland species, right). (b) Relative variable importance, showing the contribution of each LiDAR metric to explain butterfly distributions by the mean and standard deviation of 100 model runs (empty rows are metrics discarded from the model). (c) Response curves of included LiDAR metrics, showing how they are associated with the species’ probability of occurrence by the mean and confidence interval of 100 model runs. In (b) and (c), colours indicate LiDAR metrics related to low vegetation (green), medium‐to‐high vegetation (orange) and landscape‐scale habitat structure (purple).
Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) is a promising remote sensing technique for ecological applications because it can quantify vegetation structure at high resolution overlarge areas like a country Using country‐wide airborne laser scanning (ALS) data, we test to what extent fine‐scale LiDAR metrics capturing low vegetation, medium‐to‐high vegetation and landscape‐scale habitat structures can explain the habitat preferences of threatened butterflies at a national extent.
All Species distribution models showed a good to excellent fit, with woodland butterflies performing slightly better than those of grassland butterflies. Grassland butterfly occurrences were best explained by landscape‐scale habitat structures (e.g., open patches, microtopography) and vegetation height. Woodland butterfly occurrences were mainly determined by vegetation density of medium‐to‐high vegetation, open patches and woodland edge extent. The importance of metrics generally differed between wet and dry habitats for both grassland and woodland species.
Vertical variability and horizontal heterogeneity of vegetation structure are key determinants of butterfly species distributions, even in low‐stature habitats such as grasslands, dunes and heathlands. LiDAR thus offers great potential for predictive habitat distribution modelling and other studies on ecological niches and invertebrate–habitat relationships particularly important for difficult to reach, and where habitat assessment like phase 1 are incomplete.
Moths are strongly attracted to ultraviolet and blue radiation published: 16 March 2021
The experimental setup and of the light trap used in the experiments with its 1 m2 background
With insects disappearing at alarming rates globally it is becoming imperative to closely monitor their population and community dynamics as a basis for their effective conservation. Our results demonstrate that this can best be achieved by using lamps that emit significant radiation in the UV range, and that take advantage of the many practical advantages of LED lamps over other alternative light sources.
Lamps that emit in the Blue, Green and UV bandwidth should therefore be totally avoided from outside use and the results strongly argue for the banning of UV‐emitting Fluorescent. Longer‐wave alternative LED types with primary peaks in similar ranges to sodium vapour lamps should be tested and considered as suitable future replacements.
Are Grizzled Skippers stuck in the south?
Population‐level responses of an early‐successional specialist butterfly to climate across its UK range over 40 years
Climate change has been predicted to facilitate poleward (northern) expansion of many early‐successional specialist invertebrates. The Grizzled Skipper, Pyrgus malvae, is a threatened butterfly in long‐term decline that has not met expectations of northern expansion in Britain, possibly indicating that climate change has not improved northern habitat suitability or that another driver (e.g. land use change) is masking its effects. The article explores the effect of climate on population size trends over four decades, and whether any regions show an improving population trend that may be a precursor to northern expansion.
We found that P. malvae population size declined more over time in the north and west of its UK range than in the south and east, and was negatively related to high December temperature and summer rainfall. However, the effect sizes of temperature and rainfall were minimal
Dasgupta Report ' The Economics of Biodiversity' Full report HERE
This seminal global report tackles the fundamentals of our realtionship with Nature . He outlines the drastic changes required for our survival and avoid another COVID 19
Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset: Nature. We have collectively failed to engage with Nature sustainably, to the extent that our demands far exceed its capacity to supply us with the goods and services we all rely on. We require 1.6 Earths to maintain the world’s current living standards. Our unsustainable engagement with Nature is endangering the prosperity of current and future generations. At the heart of the problem lies deep-rooted, widespread institutional failure. The solution starts with understanding and accepting a simple truth: our economies are embedded within Nature, not external to it. We need to change how we think, act and measure success. We need to ensure that our demands on Nature do not exceed its supply, and that we increase Nature’s supply relative to its current level. To change our measures of economic success to guide us on a more sustainable path.
He concludes "Transformative change is possible – we and our descendants deserve nothing less!" It needs a plan in excess of the Marshall plan that rebuilt shattered Europe after WW2 as well as instilling an appreciation of nature through education is vital.
The papers say: "Landmark report says GDP should be ditched as measure of wealth and nature valued to protect wildlife and humans" . The review’s focus on completely rewiring mainstream economic and financial models is key to moving the nature debate on to the agenda of governments, financial regulators and individual financial firms
Produced capital has doubled since 1990 while natural capital has nearly halved .
Moths to the rescue with another british produced Covid vaccine
Well...how about rescue us from Covid 19? Yes!
The second wave of Covid Vaccines are expected to be approved after phase 3 trials in 1st quarter 2021. They include one manufacturered using a moth, the Noctuid Spodoptera frugiperda or 'Fall Army Worm'. Cells extracted from the formimg ovaries of a caterpillar (backin the 70's) can be cultured with the advantage they never change and are immortal. In an extremely safe process moth cells are brewed in 2000 ltr. bioreactors at Fujifilm's bio-pharmaceutical site at Billingham. The cells are then infected with a moth Baculovirus that has been modified to carry the DNA code to make the moth produce the antigen protein. The Baculovirus inserts this DNA into the moth cell's DNA who start to make spike proteins. After a few days the protein can be harvested form the cells onto a synthetic particles that closely resembles the Covid virus and mixed with a saponin, a natural adjuvant from Horse chesnuts, to make the final vaccine. This vaccine then causes our bodies to make antispike antibodies that that bind to the Covid virus spikes deactivating it. Proven now to be 1st in its class it produces a response in humans significantly greater than catching the Covid itself see below: Thank you Moths!
The First known Riodinid 'Cuckoo' Butterfly : Lucas Kaminski
Enhancing road verges to aid pollinator conservation: A review Benjamin B. Phillipsa,⁎ , Claire Wallaceb , Bethany R. Robertsa , Andrew T. Whitehousec , Kevin J. Gastona , James M. Bullockd , Lynn V. Dicksb,e , Juliet L. Osbornea
Road verges provide habitats that have considerable potential as a tool for pollinator conservation, especially given the significant area of land that they collectively cover. Growing societal interest in managing road verges for pollinators suggests an immediate need for evidence-based management guidance. We used a formal, global literature review to assess evidence for the benefits of road verges for pollinators (as habitats and corridors), the potential negative impacts of roads on pollinators (vehicle-pollinator collisions, pollution, barriers to movement) and how to enhance road verges for pollinators through management. We identified, reviewed and synthesised 140 relevant studies. Overall, the literature review demonstrated that: (i) road verges are often hotspots of flowers and pollinators (well established), (ii) traffic and road pollution can cause mortality and other negative impacts on pollinators (well established), but available evidence suggests that the benefits of road verges to pollinators far outweigh the costs (established but incomplete), and (iii) road verges can be enhanced for pollinators through strategic management (well established). Future research should address the lack of holistic and large-scale understanding of the net effects of road verges on pollinators. We provide management recommendations for enhancing both individual road verges for pollinators (e.g. optimised mowing regimes) and entire road networks (e.g. prioritising enhancement of verges with the greatest capacity to benefit pollinators), and highlight three of the most strongly supported recommendations: (i) creating high quality habitats on new and existing road verges, (ii) reducing mowing frequency to 0–2 cuts/year
A study of how the Speckled Wood butterfly has been able to achieve such a rapid expansion and what we can learn from this as climate change bites . Are northerners bigger and darker? Anecdotal evidence from our recorders suggests they are and has been assisted in its invasion even into our gardens by the trend towards wet warm summers and lush grass growth. This species swept through Yorkshire in the 1980's to become one of our most familiar butterflies not only common anywhere shady but by being on the wing almost continuously from April till October.
This study documents detailed wing morphological variation (size, shape and colour) in the Speckled Wood butterfly, P. aegeria, across two recently expanded populations in mainland Britain, suggesting differing responses to environmental and demographic factors. The size of P. aegeria increases with latitude, consistent with Bergmann’s rule, and during the range expansion process, with more recently colonised populations being larger than core populations. Shape changes, independent of size, are most strongly associated with colonisation history. Forewing shape becomes more rounded, whereas hindwing shape becomes longer, in more recently colonised populations and with latitude. The distribution of average lightness (opposite of melanism) is more strongly associated with temperature during development than it is to latitude, and runs contrary to the traditional thermal melanism hypothesis. Furthermore, the area of brown relative to cream increases with latitude, but not enough to overcome the general lightening in both areas. Finally, the contrast between brown and cream areas increases with latitude, accounting for the human perception that individuals become darker further north. Overall, this study sheds light on the interaction of temperature-sensitive plastic traits and selection during a mainly climate-driven range expansion.
" Populations undergoing rapid climate-driven range expansion experience distinct selection regimes dominated both by increased dispersal at the leading edges and steep environmental gradients. Characterisation of traits associated with such expansions provides insight into the selection pressures and evolutionary constraints that shape demographic and evolutionary responses. Here we investigate patterns in three components of wing morphology (size, shape, colour) often linked to dispersal ability and thermoregulation, along latitudinal gradients of range expansion in the Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) in Britain "
Resolving a 150 year old argument: Why do male and female butterflies differ in colour?
Males and females of many species are dimorphic; there are differences in the way the sexes look and function. One of the most studied types of dimorphism is dichromatism, where males and females have different colors.
It is often assumed that sexual selection is important to dichromatism, as choosy females often mate with colorful males. At the same time, natural selection by predators against elaborated colors can especially be strong for females, as they may need to carry eggs or provide maternal care making them more vulnerable.
For as long as we have known about natural and sexual selection, however, it has been debated which of these two forces initially creates dichromatism.
Charles Darwin argued that sexual selection drives male color away from female color, whereas contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace instead thought that natural selection pulled female color away from the male's.
Here, we revisit this debate using butterflies, one of the taxa Darwin and Wallace argued over, to determine whether Darwin's or Wallace's model is more important in the evolution of dichromatism.
We used drawings from a field guide to quantify the color difference between males and females of all European non‐hesperiid butterfly species, and modeled how their colors have evolved over time.
We show that the color of males generally evolves faster than that of females.
By using the direction of male and female color evolution along the phylogeny, we also determined that changes in male color are around twice as important to dichromatism evolution than changes in female color.
These results show that directional selection on males, likely due to sexual selection, is the main driver of dichromatism in butterflies.
This supports Darwin's, but not Wallace's, model of dichromatism evolution, resolving a 150‐year‐old argument.
(Summary Extract )
Opposite: Colour profiles of Male and Females
Bucking the trend - Why are some British moths on the rise?
Online talk with Douglas Boyes, Newcastle University ; one of our young scientists
Recently, there has been a surge of interest in insect declines, with several high-profile studies generating extensive media coverage (‘insectageddon’). However, not all insects are declining. Conservation scientists have understandably focused on decreasing species, though these only provide half the story of biodiversity change. Appreciating how some species are thriving despite unprecedented anthropogenic pressures could provide insights for mitigating wider declines. The talk is based on Douglas Boyes’s MSc project which examined changes in the prevalence of 51 moth species, using two national datasets. The ‘winners’ are diverse, including long-term residents, habitat specialists, and recent colonists. The causes of these trends are poorly understood. Whilst climate change is considered an important driver, the success of many ‘winners’ likely arises from numerous, intertwining factors.
Douglas has been recording moths since aged 12, finding over 800 species in his garden. He further developed his passion for moths at the University of Oxford, through undergraduate and postgraduate research. Douglas is currently undertaking a PhD at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. This investigates the impacts of light pollution on moths.
Provide shady spots to protect butterflies from climate change, say scientists at Cambridge + Lancaster
Researchers have discovered significant variations in the ability of different UK butterfly species to maintain a suitable body temperature. Species that rely most on finding a suitably shady location to keep cool are at the greatest risk of population decline. The results predict how climate change might impact butterfly communities, and will inform conservation strategies to protect them.
The results, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, show that larger and paler butterflies including the Large White (Pieris brassicae) and Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) are best able to buffer themselves against environmental temperature swings. They angle their large, reflective wings in relation to the sun, and use them to direct the sun's heat either away from, or onto their bodies. These species have either stable or growing populations.
More colourful larger species such as the Peacock (Aglais io) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) have greater difficulty controlling their body temperature, but even they are better than their smaller relatives like the Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus).
The study found that some butterfly species rely on finding a spot at a specific temperature within a landscape -- termed a 'microclimate' -- to control their body temperature. Air temperatures vary on a fine scale: a shaded patch of ground is cooler than one in full sun, for example. These 'thermal specialists', including Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), have suffered larger population declines over the last 40 years.
All butterflies are ectotherms: they can't generate their own body heat. "Butterfly species that aren't very good at controlling their temperature with small behavioural changes, but rely on choosing a micro-habitat at the right temperature, are likely to suffer the most from climate change and habitat loss," said Dr Andrew Bladon, a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the University of Cambridge's Department of Zoology, and first author of the report.
He added: "We need to make landscapes more diverse to help conserve many of our butterfly species. Even within a garden lawn, patches of grass can be left to grow longer -- these areas will provide cooler, shady places for many species of butterfly. In nature reserves, some areas could be grazed or cut and others left standing. We also need to protect features that break up the monotony of farm landscapes, like hedgerows, ditches, and patches of woodland."
Landscapes with a diversity of heights and features have a greater range of temperatures than flat, monotonous ones. This applies on scales from kilometres to centimetres: from hillsides to flower patches. Such structural diversity creates different microclimates that many butterflies use to regulate their temperature.
The research involved catching nearly 4,000 wild butterflies in hand-held nets, and taking the temperature of each using a fine probe. The surrounding air temperature was measured, and for butterflies found perching on a plant, the air temperature at the perch was also taken. This indicated the degree to which butterflies were seeking out specific locations to control their body temperature. In total, 29 different butterfly species were recorded.
The study reveals that butterflies are either thermal generalists or thermal specialists, and this does not always correspond with their current categorisations as either habitat generalists or specialists.
"As we plan conservation measures to address the effects of climate change, it will be important to understand not only the habitat requirements of different butterfly species, but also their temperature requirements," said Dr Ed Turner in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, who led the work.
He added: "With this new understanding of butterflies, we should be able to better manage habitats and landscapes to protect them, and in doing so we're probably also protecting other insects too."
Over the past thirty years, many species of butterfly have expanded their range northwards, as more northerly places have become warmer due to climate change. The ranges of species adapted to cooler environments are shrinking. These trends have been tracked for butterfly populations as a whole, but no previous study has investigated how the individual butterflies that make up these populations are able to respond to small scale temperature changes.
Full article here