Wind Tunnel Studies of Temperature Dependence and Behavior of Butterflies in the Context of Habitat Edges
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Wind tunnel studies provide a valuable experimental approach that can be used to investigate the influence of specific environmental parameters and to make generalizations about insect behavior. In this study, we designed an experiment to test the sensitivity of butterflies to isolated environmental parameters in the context of understanding edge responses. We tested the behavior of 21 different butterfly species in response to certain stimuli, including food source, feeder color, temperature, and UV light. Certain butterfly species (e.g. Heliconius melpomene and Papilio polytes) were particularly active in the wind tunnel setup. All butterfly species tested preferred blue feeders over white, yellow or pink. Investigation of the UV content of the different feeders and the butterflies' preferred nectar plant showed a similar wavelength response, which could indicate a UV preference in butterflies. We also observed species-dependent temperature preferences. Papilio lowii had a significant preference for the warm side (36.0°C) of the wind tunnel, whereas Papilio polytes showed a significant preference for the cold side (25.3°C).
Waldman, J. Rhea S. and Diane M. Debinski. 2015. Wind tunnel studies of temperature dependence and behavior of butterflies in the context of habitat edges. Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society. 69(2): 125-130.