Using citizen science to assess the effect of wing pattern and weather on butterfly behavior

January 3 – Febuary 28, 2021

Meeting Abstract

S4-18  Tue Jan 5 17:15 – 17:30  Using citizen science to assess the effect of wing pattern and weather on butterfly behavior Merrill, AN*; Hirzel, GE; Westerman, E; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Signaling in insects is used as communication and for attraction of mates. Brighter colors can produce stronger signals when attracting potential mates. However, more vibrant colors can unintentionally attract negative attention from predators. Environmental conditions such as weather can play a role in visual signaling as well, by influencing the wavelengths of light available, and subsequent signal detection. We do not know, however, whether signals butterflies present broadly correlate with how they behave. In this study, we looked at the wing patterns and behavior of butterflies in Northwest Arkansas over a 3.5-year period to assess the relationship between wing pattern, weather, and behavior. We used observational data collected by hundreds of University of Arkansas students and Northwest Arkansas citizens through surveys at both the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and the general Northwest Arkansas region. We found that weather and wing color influenced general butterfly behavior. Butterflies fed more often on cloudy days than sunny days. Black and brown butterflies fed more often, while yellow and white butterflies flew more often relative to other butterfly colors. We also found that there was an interaction between the effects of weather and wing color on butterfly behavior. White and yellow butterflies fed more and flew less on cloudy days than sunny days, relative to the other colors of butterflies. Furthermore, butterfly color influenced the choice of flower colors butterflies fed on. More brown butterflies landed on yellow flowers relative to other colors of butterflies. These results suggest that flower choice may be associated with butterfly wing pattern, and that different environmental conditions may influence butterfly behavior in wing-pattern-specific ways.

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