Extended season for northern butterflies

Abstract

Butterflies are like all insects in that they are temperature sensitive and a changing climate with higher temperatures might effect their phenology. Several studies have found support for earlier flight dates among the investigated species. A comparative study with data from a citizen science project, including 66 species of butterflies in Sweden, was undertaken, and the result confirms that most butterfly species now fly earlier during the season. This is especially evident for butterflies overwintering as adults or as pupae. However, the advancement in phenology is correlated with flight date, and some late season species show no advancement or have even postponed their flight dates and are now flying later in the season. The results also showed that latitude had a strong effect on the adult flight date, and most of the investigated species showed significantly later flights towards the north. Only some late flying species showed an opposite trend, flying earlier in the north. A majority of the investigated species in this study showed a general response to temperature and advanced their flight dates with warmer temperatures (on average they advanced their flight dates by 3.8 days/°C), although not all species showed this response. In essence, a climate with earlier springs and longer growing seasons seems not to change the appearance patterns in a one-way direction. We now see butterflies on the wings both earlier and later in the season and some consequences of these patterns are discussed. So far, studies have concentrated mostly on early season butterfly–plant interactions but also late season studies are needed for a better understanding of long-term population consequences.

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Acknowledgments

BK was supported by the strategic research programme EkoKlim at Stockholm University. I thank four anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Bengt Karlsson.

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Karlsson, B. Extended season for northern butterflies. Int J Biometeorol 58, 691–701 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-013-0649-8

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Keywords

  • Phenology
  • Butterflies
  • Diapause
  • Latitude
  • Temperature
  • Climate
  • Citizen science