Study

Comparing movement of four butterfly species in experimental grassland strips

  • Published source details Söderström B. & Hedblom M. (2007) Comparing movement of four butterfly species in experimental grassland strips. Journal of Insect Conservation, 11, 333-342.

Summary

The mazarine blue Polyommatus semiargus and the pearly heath, Coenonympha arcania are declining in Europe. Both require flower-rich meadows with long grass and a narrow range of larval host plants. This study examined movements of these and two more generalist, common butterfly species (common blue Polyommatus icarus and ringlet Aphantophus hyperantus), on experimental strips of grassland managed in different ways, near Uppsala City, Sweden.

Three experimental strips of long grass, 30 m x 2 m, were set up, running north to south. The strips were meant to mimic road verges. One had abundant nectar flowers, one had nectar resources removed and was sheltered by a 4 m high willow Salix spp patch on the west side, the third had neither nectar nor shelter. The strips were at least 50 m apart, with short mown grass (2-4 cm) in between. A control strip was in the centre of a 1 ha patch of unmanaged long grass.

On days between 27 June and 16 July 2003 with temperatures of at least 18 °C and wind speeds less than 3 m/s, two to four marked butterflies of each species were released in each strip between 10:00 h and 13:00 h. In total 82 common blues, 111 mazarine blues, 116 ringlets and 116 pearly heaths were released. Their movements were recorded for two minutes. Other butterflies were removed from the experimental strips before each release.

Mazarine blues were more likely to stay in the sheltered strip than in the control strip on release (11 vs 1 individual). Pearly heaths were more likely to stay in the nectar strip than the control strip on release (12 vs 4 individuals).

For the common butterfly species, there was no tendency to stay in any experimental strip more often than in the control area. None of the butterflies were more likely to stay within the long grass strip with no nectar or shelter.
The authors conclude that these specialist (less common) butterfly species use strips of long grass as habitat corridors more than would be expected by chance, but that shelter from wind and nectar resources are important features of such strips.

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper, the abstract of which can be viewed at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/1366-638X

Output references
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