Silver-washed fritillaries in love


The silver-washed fritillary butterfly is rare in the Netherlands. However, 2017 is a good year for them.

Luuk Punt made this 13 July 2017 video of a silver-washed fritillary couple in love in Meijendel nature reserve.

Purple emperor butterfly


This 6 July 2017 video shows a purple emperor butterfly.

Diana van der Biezen in the Netherlands made this video.

Monarch butterflies and their enemies


This video says about itself:

14 August 2016

Monarch butterflies can be parasitized by a tachinid fly. The developing larva interrupts the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Tachinid flies are parasitoids totally killing the host.

This blog post is not about two-legged enemies of monarch butterflies like Monsanto corporation, but about six-legged enemies.

From the Entomological Society of America in the USA:

Monarch butterfly parasitoids brough to light by citizen science

‘Unprecedented view’ of parasitoid presence in monarch larval ecology

July 10, 2017

Thanks to citizen volunteers, scientists now know more than ever about the flies that attack monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Since 1999, volunteers participating in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project have collected and raised more than 20,000 monarch eggs and caterpillars, and they’ve recorded incidents of those specimens being parasitized by fly larvae. They have also collected more than 1,100 specimens of those flies and sent them to entomologists at the University of Minnesota for identification. Findings from this long-running collaboration are published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

“Our paper provides an unprecedented view of monarch-parasitoid associations across space and time. It documents the main parasitoid enemies of monarchs, their relative abundance and impact on monarchs, and how parasitism varies with host stage. This sheds new light on understanding monarch larval ecology,” says Karen Oberhauser, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota and director of the UM Monarch Lab.

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are well known for their vibrant colors and their incredible migration through North America, but they are also threatened by habitat loss. Fly species that parasitize monarchs aren’t considered a major threat to their survival, but knowing typical rates of parasitism helps scientists better discern between natural and human-driven impacts on monarchs as they continue to monitor their populations.

Volunteers in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) are trained in rearing caterpillars and accurately reporting data, and the pool of more than 1,300 monitoring sites across the United States comprises schools, museums, and other community programs, in addition to individuals.

Participants report monarch larvae collection and rearing outcomes through a data portal, and those who collect parasitoid specimens are asked to wait until the flies hatch and then freeze them until sending them to the researchers.

Oberhauser and colleagues identified seven different species of flies, all from the family Tachinidae, among the parasitoid specimens collected from monarchs by volunteers.

Overall, 9.8 percent of monitored monarchs were parasitized, though frequency increased through larval stages, with a maximum of 17 percent among fifth-stage larvae.

By far, the most abundant parasitoid species (75 percent of tachinid fly specimens collected) was Lespesia archippivora, currently known as a generalist parasitoid of several moth and butterfly species. However, the researchers suspect the species may represent a “complex” of multiple, closely related subspecies, one of which specializes in parasitizing monarchs. This will be a focus of future research, Oberhauser says.

Three of the tachinid species identified had not been previously reported as monarch parasitoids, one of which appears to be a new, previously unknown species.

The third most abundant parasitoid species collected (10 percent) was Compsilura concinnata, a species that was introduced to North America in the 20th century to control gypsy moth. Specimens sent in by volunteers in Texas represent the first recording of C. concinnata in that state.

The researchers found a small number of cases of multiparasitism, in which more than one tachinid species emerged from a monarch host, which had previously never been reported.

“Our large, comprehensive dataset could not have been collected without the participation of citizen scientists spread through monarchs‘ range,” says Oberhauser. Collection continues, and as the researchers accumulate more data, they hope to further analyze patterns in monarch parasitism over space, time and plant habitat, she says. And the ensuing analysis gives volunteers the chance to see the results of their citizen science.

“Contributing to a project like this is not only fun and interesting, but it also is deeply satisfying to contribute to our understanding of the natural world and hopefully make a difference in conservation of that world,” says Ilse Gebhard, a Monarch Larva Monitoring Project volunteer and co-author of the study.

Peacock butterfly emerges from chrysalis


This 26 June 2017 video shows a peacock butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.

Matty Weydema from the Netherlands made this video.

Common blue butterflies in love


This 6 June 2017 video is about two common blue butterflies mating. A second male tries, in vain, to disturb the couple.

Susanne Vedder in the Netherlands made this video.

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars’ self-defence


This 19 May 2016 video shows a mass of small tortoiseshell caterpillars.

They are moving, in self-defence against enemies like parasitic wasps.

Lieke Kragt from the Netherlands made this video.

New butterfly species discovery in Israel


Acentria's fritillary (Melitaea acentria), a new butterfly species discovered in Israel on the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort. Photocredit: Dr Vladimir Lukhtanov

From ScienceDaily:

New butterfly species discovered in Israel for the first time in 109 years

May 5, 2017

Summary: Little does a scientist expect to discover a new species of easy-to-see and well-studied animal, especially if it inhabits thoroughly explored areas. However, a biologist has now made a startling discovery: a new, beautiful butterfly named Acentria’s fritillary, which was spotted as it flew over the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort in northern Israel.

Vladimir Lukhtanov, entomologist and evolutionary biologist at the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, made a startling discovery: what people had thought was a population of a common species, turned out to be a whole new organism and, moreover — one with an interesting evolutionary history. This new species is named Acentria’s fritillary (Melitaea acentria) and was found flying right over the slopes of the popular Mount Hermon ski resort in northern Israel. It is described in the open access journal Comparative Cytogenetics.

“To me, it was a surprise that no one had already discovered it,” says Vladimir Lukhtanov.

“Thousands of people had observed and many had even photographed this beautifully coloured butterfly, yet no one recognised it as a separate species. The lepidopterists (experts in butterflies and moths) had been sure that the Hermon samples belonged to the common species called Persian fritillary (Melitaea persea), because of their similar appearance, but nobody made the effort to study their internal anatomy and DNA.”

In 2012, Vladimir Lukhtanov, together with his students, initiated an exhaustive study of Israeli butterflies using an array of modern and traditional research techniques. In 2013, Asya Novikova (until 2012, a master’s student at St. Petersburg University and, from 2013, a PhD student at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem) sampled a few fritillaries from Mt. Hermon.

It was at that time when the researchers noticed that the specimens “didn’t look right” — their genitalia appeared different from those of the typical Persian fritillary. Over the next few years, Lukhtanov and his students studied this population in-depth. They carried out sequencing DNA from the specimens and found that they had a unique molecular signature — very different from the DNA of any other fritillary.

The Acentria’s fritillary seems to be endemic in northern Israel and the neighbouring territories of Syria and Lebanon. Its evolutionary history is likely to prove interesting.

“The species is probably one of a handful of butterflies known to have arisen through hybridisation between two other species in the past,” says Lukhtanov. “This process is known to be common in plants, but scientists have only recently realised it might also be present in butterflies.”

This is the first new butterfly species discovered and described from the territory of Israel in 109 years.