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El Niño batters butterflies just like before

butterfly

By Environmental News Network staff

Just like the last time El Niño ravaged the California coast, the 1997-98 weather event has been a mixed bag for the state's butterflies. According to Arthur Shapiro, a University of California-Davis professor and butterfly expert, some species died out in small geographic areas but none were eliminated from entire regions.

Sites in the state's Central Valley, where butterflies often winter, were flooded, thereby delaying the butterflies' emergence by several weeks. Shapiro said one day recently he observed only three cabbage-butterfly species where normally he would have seen as many as 100 individuals from 10 different species.

Shapiro warns if the 1997-98 El Niño ends as its predecessor did, the most dramatic deviations will occur in the high-Sierra species. Very late snow melt will delay their emergence and shorten their breeding season. It is possible, Shapiro said, that at the highest altitudes, some species may even skip a full year.

Word is still not in on the migrating monarchs that winter in coastal groves and breed inland. The monarch's primary food source, the milkweed plant, has been late in blooming.

Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

 
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