From Animal Planet News:
Butterflies Wear Photonic Crystals
By Larry O’Hanlon
Nov. 18, 2005 — African swallowtail butterflies have been found using what was thought to be exclusively human advanced technology: high-efficiency photonic crystals like those of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
A microscopic study of the wing scales of the butterflies has uncovered arrays of two-dimensional, light-controlling “photonic” crystals and fluorescent pigments.
These not only allow the reflection of very particular shades of blue and blue-green, but they actually absorb some other colors and change them into the same blues and blue-greens.
That accounts for how the small group of African butterflies, and others found elsewhere in the world, can give off such strikingly brighter-than-bright color.
“It’s just amazing,” said optics researcher Pete Vukusic of Exeter University in the UK.
“We got to it one way and nature got to it another way.”
Only nature did it 30 million years earlier, he added.
Vukusic and his colleague Ian Hopper have a short paper on the discovery in the Nov. 18 issue of Science.
California Sees Worst Butterflies Season in 35 Years
By LiveScience Staff
posted: 08 May 2006
Cold and wet conditions have ruined California’s butterfly season and could contribute to some species disappearing from the state altogether.
“It has been the worst spring for butterflies of my 35 in California,” said Art Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
“There will probably be long-term repercussions, especially for species already in serious decline.”
All this just one year after billions of butterflies descended on the state’s Central Valley region.
Butterfly populations are half of normal for this time of year at most sites Shapiro monitors.
At Gates Canyon near Vacaville, he counted 10 species and 43 individuals on April 18.
At the same site on April 19 last year he counted 21 species and 378 butterflies.
The early part of the winter was relatively mild.
The lack of cold disrupted the dormant stage, so butterflies did not emerge during a warm stretch in February, Shapiro explained today.
Then March turned cold and wet, wiping out the breeding of species that had emerged.
Meanwhile, the deserts of the Southwest were dry, robbing painted lady caterpillars of food.
Shapiro and his students have seen only one painted lady in the Davis area in recent weeks, while normally a full migration would be underway by now.
Other species of butterflies—the large marble, sooty wing, Lorquin’s admiral and the mourning cloak—suffered major declines in 1999 and have not yet recovered, Shapiro said.
See also here.