Magazine article USA TODAY

Where Have All the Butterflies Gone?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Where Have All the Butterflies Gone?

Article excerpt

Cold, wet conditions early in the year have caused the summer of 2006 to be the worst season for California's butterflies in almost four decades, reports Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.

"It [was] the worst spring for butterflies of my 35 in California," Shapiro affirms. "There will probably be long-term repercussions, especially for species already in serious decline."

Shapiro says that, at most of his study sites, he has seen half or less than half the number of species present at this time in an average year, and far fewer individual butterflies than usual.

Last winter's weather conditions may have a lot to do with the drop in numbers. The early winter was mild, with not enough cold to end the winter dormancy or "diapause" of most butterflies, so they did not emerge to take advantage of the early warm weather in February. Then March turned cold and wet, wiping out the breeding of species that had emerged. …

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