Butterflies on the declineMINOT (AP) — It’s a “crummy year” for butterflies in the region, says a Minot State University professor who worries that some species may already have been eliminated.
MINOT (AP) — It’s a “crummy year” for butterflies in the region, says a Minot State University professor who worries that some species may already have been eliminated.
“Many species are absent or very, very low. It’s too cold and the seasons have really shifted around. Things are out of phase,” Minot State professor Ron Royer said. “Some species are here, some are not. It’s a real mess.”
Royer said other areas also report fewer butterflies.
“The changes this year are rather startling,” he said. “I’m hearing that all across the Upper Midwest — I’d say the Northern Plains and Minnesota and Iowa. Everybody I’ve talked to says the numbers are down dramatically.”
About a half-dozen butterflies found in North Dakota have been considered candidates for the endangered species list.
“The Dakota skipper is one and the powersheik skipperling another. It might be too late already,” Royer said. “Some of these I expect I’ll never see again in North Dakota. Once butterflies are gone, they’re gone forever.”
The weather has been unusually cool — August temperatures for Minot are running more than 8 degrees below normal. The lower temperatures change the growth timetable of plants and insects.
“A lot of this may relate to things simply happening out of phase — plants that are not available when the butterflies need them,” Royer said. “If you peruse the data, you’d find other times with local dips. But I think things are coming together to produce something more dynamic than what I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
Ken Cabarle of Minot, a University of North Dakota graduate student working on an amphibian growth project at Minot State, said small insect development was delayed so long that it affected the growth of toads, frogs and salamanders.
“The bugs, on land and in the water, showed up about two weeks later than usual because it has been so cool,” Cabarle said. “The size of many of our amphibians is smaller because of that. I certainly haven’t seen as many salamanders. We thought we’d see a bumper crop of toads, but we haven’t seen that. Too cold, I think.”
The leopard frog, however, is enjoying the cool weather, Cabarle said.
And in West Fargo, officials are reporting a bumper crop of dragonflies.
“Gerald Fauske, a collection manager for the insect museum at North Dakota State University, said the cool weather may have held back the dragonfly populations, allowing them to bunch up and seem more plentiful than usual. He said dragonflies can control when they mature and wait for the right conditions.
Changes in the insect population often are not noticed until they affect birds and animals that depend on the insects.
Jan Knodel, an entomologist at North Dakota State University, said reports of a decline in the nesting success of pheasants, grouse and other birds may be traced to grasshoppers.