What is this butterfly?

What is this butterfly?

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The following guys (about an inch long) were seen in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in summer. When one would fly by a resting one, they'd get into a high-speed little "dogfight". What genus might they be (or species, if you know). Are they in the "skipper" group of butterflies?

Yes, it is a skipper (family Hesperiidae) and very similar to European species in Ochlodes, and my guess is that it belongs to one of the North American species in this genus. For instance, it is very similar to Ochlodes sylvanoides (also called Woodland Skipper), which is common in the western parts of the US. However, I'm not familiar with North American butterflies, and there might be closely related similar species that I'm ignoring.

Images of Ochlodes sylvanoides from

More pictures can also be seen at

Butterfly effect

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.

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The term is closely associated with the work of mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. He noted that butterfly effect is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (the exact time of formation, the exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as a distant butterfly flapping its wings several weeks earlier. [ citation needed ] Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed runs of his weather model with initial condition data that were rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner. He noted that the weather model would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome. [1]

The idea that small causes may have large effects in weather was earlier recognized by French mathematician and engineer Henri Poincaré. American mathematician and philosopher Norbert Wiener also contributed to this theory. Edward Lorenz's work placed the concept of instability of the Earth's atmosphere onto a quantitative base and linked the concept of instability to the properties of large classes of dynamic systems which are undergoing nonlinear dynamics and deterministic chaos. [2]

The butterfly effect concept has since been used outside the context of weather science as a broad term for any situation where a small change is supposed to be the cause of larger consequences.

Types of Monarch Habitat

Habitat for monarchs can be anywhere, as long as there is milkweed growing there! Here we showcase a few typical habitat types where monarchs and/or milkweed can be found. These include Gardens, Managed Corridors, Agricultural Areas, and Natural and Restored Areas.


Vast tracts of land have been converted for human use, including residential areas, parks, schools, and cultural institutions. Butterfly gardens within these developed areas provide much needed habitat for butterflies. These butterfly havens may be a few square feet within an urban backyard, or a larger managed garden attached to an educational institution, cultural center, or a corporate office park.

In addition to their benefits to butterflies and other pollinators, gardens serve to educate children and adults on conservation issues, engage them in scientific inquiry, and may lead to increased involvement in conservation activities. Schools are important partners in this effort, as they involve young children in creating and caring for a habitat.

Key components of garden habitat:

  • Gardens should be planted in sunny spots, with some protection from the wind.
  • At least one milkweed species that is native to the area will provide food for monarch caterpillars.
  • A variety of nectar plants with staggered bloom times give butterflies and other pollinators a continuous food source. Include a combination of early, middle and late blooming species to fuel butterfly breeding and migration.
  • Herbicides and pesticides should be avoided, as they can hurt caterpillars and adults.

Additional tips on butterfly gardening can be found at the North American Butterfly Association's guide to butterfly gardening.

Managed Corridors

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are almost 9 million miles of highways in the United States. In addition, there are more than 5 million acres of land within utility rights-of-way. The easements or rights-of-ways that are associated with these linear tracts, when managed appropriately, can provide critical habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.

A typical right-of-way managed for monarchs would include initial removal of invasive and undesirable species, preparation of the surface through tilling and other means, planting of native flowering plants, and management through timed mowing and monitoring.

Key components of managed corridor habitat:

  • A mix of native flowers with different bloom times, including some overlap in flowering, to ensure a stable food source for butterflies. A combination of early, middle and late blooming species will fuel butterfly breeding and migration.
  • Native milkweed to provide food for monarch caterpillars.
  • Minimal, well-timed management that limits impacts to all pollinators, including butterflies, while eliminating woody species as needed. Preferably, mowing should be limited to times when plants have died back or are dormant. Mowing at any time (even in the winter) kills insects. In the summer, some insects can&rsquot get away from the mower, especially eggs and caterpillars. In the winter insects may be dormant in leaf litter or plant stems. Mowing in patches ensures that pollinators can recolonize the mowed areas.
  • Avoidance of insecticides.

If needed, minimal, well-timed insecticide applications. If chemicals must be used, choose the least toxic alternative, and apply them early and late in the day, when fewer pollinators are present. Please note that chemicals will kill monarch larvae, if they are present. Herbicides, if required, should be applied with targeted spot treatments instead of a broadcast method. Whenever possible, mechanical removal of shrubs should be used in combination with herbicides to maintain butterfly habitat.

Invasive plant species control by targeted or mechanical means. Invasive plants can compete with native species for resources. Often, invasives win, because they do not have natural enemies in their new environment to keep their numbers in check. Many invasive plants also secrete chemicals into the soil that deter native plants from growing in the area.

Roadways and utility corridors are highly visible areas. Consider adding a sign or informational brochures in highly frequented areas, such as rest stops, to educate the public about your monarch conservation efforts.

For more information on management areas, please visit the Xerces Society&rsquos Pollinators and Roadsides: Managing Roadsides for Bees and Butterflies.

Agricultural Areas

Agricultural fields used to be an important source of milkweed for monarch caterpillars. Milkweed has historically grown alongside crop plants, and provided abundant food for monarch caterpillars. With the introduction of herbicide tolerant crops, management shifted from a till-based approach to the widespread use of herbicides. This practice has diminished much of the milkweed growing in agricultural areas, since milkweed can survive some tilling, but cannot survive herbicides.

Farmers have an important role to play in the conservation of monarch butterflies. Farms across the continent are adopting pollinator friendly practices.

Key components of agricultural habitat:

  • Native flowers planted in fallow fields, hedgerows, and farm field margins to provide food for butterflies. A combination of early, middle and late blooming species, with overlap in flowering times, will fuel butterfly breeding and migration.
  • Native milkweed planted in unused portions of the site to provide food for caterpillars.
  • Use of low till and no till farming techniques to allow more milkweed to grow alongside crops.
  • Avoidance of pesticides.
  • If needed, use minimal, well-timed herbicide applications. If chemicals must be used, choose the least toxic alternative, and apply them early and late in the day, when fewer butterflies are present. Please note that chemicals will kill monarch larvae. Herbicides, if required, should be applied with targeted spot treatments instead of a broadcast method. Whenever possible, mechanical removal of shrubs should be used in combination with herbicides to maintain butterfly habitat.

For additional information on pollinator friendly farming, please refer to Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms created by the Xerces Society.

Natural and Restored Areas

Natural areas include nature preserves, parks, or areas not actively being used for another purpose. Restored areas are lands that have been specifically replanted and re-purposed for conservation.

Natural areas may also be located in high traffic areas. Trail margins in prairie areas, campsites, and picnic areas present opportunities to enhance butterfly breeding and migratory habitat. Natural areas can be enhanced for monarchs using a few simple ideas.

Key components of natural/restored habitat:

  • A mix of native flowers with different bloom times, including some overlap in flowering, to ensure a stable food source for butterflies. A combination of early, middle and late blooming species will fuel butterfly breeding and migration.
  • Native milkweed to provide food for monarch caterpillars.
  • Minimal management, including the avoidance of mowing until butterflies have migrated from the area. It is important to stress that mowing kills insects any time of the year. Mowing in patches ensures that pollinators always have access to undisturbed patches of habitat, and that surviving insects can recolonize the mowed area.
  • Avoidance of pesticides avoid herbicides, except for targeted invasive species control.

For additional information on monarch conservation in natural areas such as parks, visit Parks for Monarchs: A Resource Guide for Monarch Conservation created by the MJV and National Recreation and Park Association.


The species was discovered in 1906 by Albert Stewart Meek, a collector employed by Walter Rothschild to collect natural history specimens from New Guinea. In the next year, Rothschild named the species in honour of Alexandra of Denmark. Although the first specimen was taken with the aid of a small shotgun, Meek soon discovered the early stages and bred out most of the first specimens. [6]

Though most authorities now classify this species in the genus Ornithoptera, it has formerly been placed in the genus Troides or the now defunct genus Aethoptera. In 2001 the lepidopterist Gilles Deslisle proposed placing it in its own subgenus (which some writers have treated as a genus) he originally proposed the name Zeunera, but this is a junior homonym (with Zeunera Piton 1936 [Orthoptera]), and his replacement is Straatmana. [7]

Female: Female Queen Alexandra's birdwings are larger than males with markedly rounder, broader wings. The female can reach, and slightly exceed, a wingspan of 25 cm to 28 cm (9.8 inches to 11 inches), a body length of 8 cm (3.1 in) and a body mass of up to 12 g (0.42 oz), all enormous measurements for a butterfly. The female has brown wings with white markings arranged as two rows of chevrons. The hindwings are brown with a submarginal line of centred yellow triangles. The body is cream coloured and there is a small section of red fur on the brown thorax.

Male: There is sexual dimorphism in this species. The wings are long with angular apices. They are iridescent bluish green with a black central band. There is a pronounced sex brand. The underside is green or blue green with black veins. Males are smaller than females. The abdomen is bright yellow. The wingspan of the males can be approximately 20 cm (8 in), but more usually about 16 cm (6.3 in). A spectacular form of the male is form atavus, which has gold spots on the hindwings. [8]

Eggs Edit

The eggs are large, light yellow and flattened at the base, fixated to the surface on which they are laid by a bright-orange substance. Under ideal conditions, the female Queen Alexandra's birdwing is capable of laying over 240 eggs throughout its life.

Larva Edit

Newly emerged larvae eat their own eggshells before feeding on fresh foliage. The larva is black with red tubercles and has a cream-coloured band or saddle in the middle of its body.

Larvae of this species feed on the shell from which they hatched and then start to extract nutrients from pipe vines of the genus Pararistolochia (family Aristolochiaceae), including P. dielsiana and P. schlecteri. They feed initially on fresh foliage of the host plants and their own eggs, ultimately causing ringbark to the vine before pupating. Plants of the family Aristolochiaceae contain aristolochic acids in their leaves and stems. This is believed to be a potent vertebrate poison and is accumulated by larvae during their development.

Pupa Edit

The pupa is golden yellow or tan in colour with black markings. Male pupae may be distinguished by a faint charcoal patch on the wing cases this becomes a band of special scales in the adult butterfly called a sex brand. The time taken for this species to develop from egg to pupa is approximately six weeks, with the pupal stage taking a month or more. Adults emerge from the pupae early in the morning while humidity is still high, as the enormous wings may dry out before they have fully expanded if the humidity drops.

Imago Edit

The adults may live for three months or more and have few predators, excluding large orb weaving spiders (Nephila species) and some small birds. Adults feed at flowers providing a broad platform for the adults to land on, including Hibiscus. The adults are powerful fliers most active in the early morning and again at dusk when they actively feed at flowers.

Males also patrol areas of the host plants for newly emerged females early in the morning. Females may be seen searching for host plants for most of the day. Courtship is brief but spectacular males hover above a potential mate, dousing her with a pheromone to induce mating. Receptive females will allow the male to land and pair, while unreceptive females will fly off or otherwise discourage mating. Males are strongly territorial and will see off potential rivals, sometimes chasing small birds as well as other birdwing species. The flight is usually high in the rainforest canopy, but both sexes descend to within a few meters of the ground while feeding or laying eggs.

The Queen Alexandra's birdwing is considered endangered by the IUCN, [1] being restricted to approximately 100 km 2 (40 sq mi) of coastal rainforest near Popondetta, Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. It is nonetheless abundant locally and requires old growth rainforest for its long-term survival. The major threat for this species is habitat destruction for oil palm plantations. However, the eruption of nearby Mount Lamington in the 1950s destroyed a very large area of this species' former habitat and is a key reason for its current rarity.

The species is also highly prized by collectors, and because of its rarity, this butterfly fetches a very high price on the black market, reportedly US$8,500-10,000 in the United States in 2007. [9] In 2001, renowned Canadian researcher Gilles Deslisle was fined CA$50,000 for illegally importing six specimens of Queen Alexandra's birdwings. [10] In 2007, "global butterfly smuggler" Hisayoshi Kojima pleaded guilty to 17 charges after selling a number of endangered butterflies, including a pair of Queen Alexandra's birdwings priced at US$8,500, to a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [9]

Early collectors, frustrated by the height at which adults fly during the day, often used small shotguns to down specimens, but because collectors demand high quality specimens for their collections, most specimens are reared from larvae or pupae.

Although collectors are often implicated with the decline of this species, habitat destruction is the main threat.

The species is listed on Appendix I of CITES, meaning that international commercial trade is illegal. At the 2006 meeting of the CITES Animals Committee, some suggested it should be moved to Appendix II (which would allow restricted trade in the species), as the conservation benefits of sustainable management perhaps are higher than those of the trade ban. [11]

Butterfly Info

Butterflies are a popular seasonal attraction at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, and we’re excited to announce some new features to help you get the most out of your visit here. Native butterflies can be found in our Butterfly House (the only one in Arkansas) May-October. You can also observe butterflies throughout the garden during this time. Before you visit, please watch our introductory video to learn more about what you can expect to see, as well as garden etiquette.

You can also download our Butterfly Days Audio Tour here for free and listen to it as you explore the botanical garden.

Butterfly Research

A citizen science project between the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, the University of Arkansas and YOU!

Butterflies, birds, flowers and a wide variety of animals and plants come in a spectacular range of colors and shapes. One of the main goals of biology is understanding why this variation exists, and how changes in color and shape influence behavior, such as feeding, resting and predator avoidance.

The Botanical Garden of the Ozarks has teamed up with University of Arkansas professor Dr. Erica Westerman and the Northwest Arkansas community to study whether butterfly wing pattern (color & size) can be used to predict butterfly behavior particularly what flowers they visit, what time of day they are active and what weather conditions they fly in. Dr. Westerman has deployed temperature and light sensors around the gardens, and we have compiled a checklist of butterfly wing patterns and behaviors.

Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to pick up one of these checklists from the BGO Visitors Center and then keep your eyes out for butterflies as you travel through the garden. Every time you see a butterfly, check its color and size and what it’s doing (feeding, flying, sitting). If it’s feeding or sitting, please also note the color of the flower it is feeding or sitting on. If you happen to know the species of butterfly, go ahead and write that down too!

The data you collect will be compiled with that of other garden visitors and UARK researchers. Your data will help scientists address questions concerning animal behavior, diversity, and NWA pollinator community health.

For more information or to learn more about Dr. Westerman’s research, visit her website.

You can fill out the butterfly data collection form online as you walk through the garden!

Staying home? You can still participate! Just click below to fill out the “at home” butterfly data form.

The Physics of Butterfly Flight

(Inside Science TV) -- If you have ever heard someone mention The Butterfly Effect, the analogy that the wind from a butterfly's wings or any other tiny variations can cause huge weather effects somewhere else in the world, it may make you wonder, how do butterflies make all that wind in the first place?

Butterflies are totally the dancing queens of the animal world! They have huge wings for their tiny bodies. Their wings are way bigger than many other insects of the same weight. And new research shows butterflies don’t even need all of that wingspan -- their wings are so massive they can fly even with half their wing cut off.

So how does an insect that is huge, brightly colored, and extremely visible, avoid getting eaten by predators?

Well, those massive wings are the answer!

Because the size of the wings are so big, they make it easier for the whole insect to maneuver. A butterfly's huge wings are like having a massive rudder on the back a ship -- the bigger the rudder, the faster the ship can turn. If you have a little rudder, you can-t turn as fast.

If you've ever tried to catch a butterfly, you'll see that those suckers are tricky!

Butterflies also use their wings to make an erratic fluttering pattern -- which is unique to butterflies -- and very hard for predators to predict. Rather than flapping their wings up and down like birds (who fall victim to hungry predators all the time!), butterflies contract their bodies making a figure-8 pattern with their wings. As the butterfly's body contracts, the motion pushes air under their wings, effectively helping it "swim" through the air.

Bec Susan Gill is the Creative Director & Producer of Did Someone Say Science? Her journalistic and creative work has been commissioned by NewsCorp, Coca Cola, Burger King, YouTube, Facebook, and Nike, amongst others. Her videos have won numerous awards, including the 2014 PR Award.

What’s Happening to the Monarch Butterfly Population?

“Something’s going on in early spring,” a professor said, and researchers are trying to solve the mystery.

Western monarch butterflies spend their winters in Pismo Beach and other sites on the central California coast. A few months later, they breed in the Central Valley and as far north and east as Idaho.

But where they go in between remains an open question.

Now, a group of researchers wants the public’s help to solve that mystery.

They would like anyone who spots a monarch north of Santa Barbara this spring to snap a quick picture. The researchers — from Washington State University, Tufts University, the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and the University of California, Santa Cruz — need photographic evidence, a date and a location to confirm where the monarchs might be living. (Photos and information can be emailed to [email protected] or uploaded on the iNaturalist app.)

“Something’s going on in early spring,” said Cheryl Schultz, a professor at Washington State University in Vancouver. Researchers know that winter survival isn’t the issue in the short-term, she said.

But they don’t know whether the monarchs are not making it to breeding sites, not finding plants to nourish them along the way, or not able to find mates.

The Western monarch population, which lives west of the Rocky Mountains, stood in the millions in the 1980s. In 2017, an annual count found 200,000 butterflies. In 2018, the tally fell to about 30,000 — a figure that held steady last year, said Elizabeth Crone, a biology professor at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

The monarch’s decline is part of a larger trend among dozens of butterfly species in the West, including creatures with names like field crescents, large marbles and Nevada skippers, said Matt Forister, an insect ecologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, whose conclusions are based on a nearly 50-year set of data compiled by Art Shapiro, a researcher at the University of California, Davis. “The monarch is very clearly part of a larger decline of butterflies in the West.”

Research pins the loss of Western butterflies on a variety of factors, including development, climate change, farming practices and the widespread use of pesticides by farmers, and on home and business lawns, Dr. Forister said.

For example, Dr. Schultz said that farms used to have rough, weedy borders that were great breeding grounds for the types of plants that monarchs love. Newer farming practices have pushed crops to the very edge of the fields, leaving no room for these weedy margins, she said.

Another factor, she said: Some homeowners, eager to attract monarchs, have planted tropical milkweed. Although the butterflies will feed on them, these plants tend to spread disease, because they don’t drop their leaves, Dr. Schultz said, which may be contributing to the declining monarch population. Native milkweed supports the population without this risk, she said.

Climate change also plays a role in the challenges facing monarchs and other butterflies, said Chip Taylor, a professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, who also directs Monarch Watch, a network of students, teachers, volunteers and researchers. Temperatures in the Western monarch’s overwintering sites along the coast now average 2 degrees higher in January and February than they did just two decades ago — the highest rate of increase outside Alaska, he said.

Western monarchs are quite similar to their Eastern cousins, just a bit smaller and darker, Dr. Crone said. But they have a distinct migratory pattern.

While the Eastern monarchs migrate from Mexico to as far away as New England and Southern Canada, the Western ones mostly remain in Southern California or migrate from the mid-coast up as far as British Columbia and as far east as the Rockies, Dr. Schultz said.

In the last couple of years, she said, the range of their breeding grounds has been contracting. The butterflies are going inland as far as Nevada, but they’re not making it as far as Washington State anymore.

Like other insects, butterflies often have good years and bad. “Butterfly populations are bouncy,” Dr. Schultz said. “While we think the situation right now is very concerning, we do think there’s a lot of potential to turn it around.”

Dr. Schultz said she saw two reasons for hope. First, the population decline seen in 2017-18 wasn’t repeated last year. And second, she’s seen butterfly populations rebound before.

When she started working to help preserve the Fender’s blue butterfly in the early 1990s, there were only about 1,500 of the insects left in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This year, thanks to collaborative efforts by citizens, farmers, private landowners and government, there were almost 25,000.

“That’s the kind of commitment that gives me both optimism and the sense that we can do this,” Dr. Schultz said. “My hope with Western monarchs is we can bring the population back up.”

Baltimore Checkerspot: Euphydryas Phaeton

In my many years of looking for butterflies, I have yet to come across this species. This is mostly due to the fact that it doesn&apost stray very far from its localized colonies, which are in wet meadows and boggy areas. With areas like these disappearing every day due to thoughtless development by humans, this gorgeous butterfly is threatened in many places in Maryland, it&aposs on the endangered list, despite being the offical State Butterfly.

This species hibernates through the winter as a caterpillar, in dead leaves and grass on the ground. This means they must endure sub-freezing temperatures until spring, when they again begin eating and eventually pupate.

Geographic Range: Eastern US

Flight Characteristics: Fluttering flight in wet meadows usually found in colonies

Caterpillar Food Plants: Turtlehead

Status: Threatened in some areas, and not common in general found in local colonies

Notes: This butterfly has many similar species, mostly in the American West

Tracking monarch butterfly migration with the world's smallest computer

The scientific name of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, means "sleepy transformation" in Greek, evoking the species' ability to hibernate and metamorphize. Credit: University of Michigan

In a project funded by National Geographic, ECE researchers are teaming up with the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to advance our understanding of monarch butterfly migration with the most ambitious iteration of the Michigan Micro Mote yet.

In Mexico, days before the COVID-19 shutdown, a team of engineers and biologists were riding on horseback into the heart of a popular overwintering site for monarch butterflies to conduct preliminary tests on their newest iteration of the Michigan Micro Mote (M3). The project, supported in part by National Geographic, hopes to aid wildlife conservation efforts by shedding light on butterfly migration and habitat conditions.

The M3, created by David Blaauw, Kensall D. Wise Collegiate Professor of EECS, and several other University of Michigan researchers, is a fully energy-autonomous computing system that acts as a smart sensing system and can be configured for a wide variety of applications. For this project, the M3 will be glued to the back of individual monarch butterflies to track and monitor environmental conditions—specifically light and temperature and eventually air pressure—they encounter during migration.

"This is our most complex M3 system," says Blaauw. "We need to capture data about the light intensity that is accurate down to a few seconds, and we need to be able to transmit that captured data a long distance because we will not be able to physically retrieve the specimens."

A prototype of the sensor is attached to the back of a monarch. Credit: University of Michigan

Blaauw and Prof. Inhee Lee, an ECE alum who is now at the University of Pittsburg, are responsible for the chip and system design. Prof. Hun-Seok Kim designs and trains the algorithms that analyze the captured data and reconstruct the migratory path of the specimen. André Green, a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at U-M, analyzes these paths to learn more about monarch biology and applies this knowledge to conservation efforts.

Monarchs can travel as far as 3,000 miles during migration, spending the summer in the northern parts of the U.S. to breed and the winter along the coasts of California, Florida, and Mexico. The sensors have to be hardy enough to survive the long trip, as well as any inclement weather along the way, but light enough so they don't disrupt the behavior or harm the butterflies. This iteration of the M3 is the lightest yet, weighing around 50 milligrams, which is tenfold lighter than the lightest tracking devices to date. As part of the team's preliminary tests, they attached M3s to several butterflies and monitored their condition in a greenhouse.

"All initial indications are that we're not having strong negative effects on the butterflies," says Green. "We found no significant difference in their metabolism whether they were carrying the sensor or not."

The conventional method to study monarch migration involves attaching a paper tag to an individual butterfly and recovering the specimen at known monarch destinations.

Pine trees covered in monarchs. Credit: University of Michigan

"Using that technique, we can know only the starting point and ending point for the specimens we recover, which is a small percentage of the total," Lee says. "But with our technique, we can actually track each individual's complete path."

In addition to tracking the entirety of an individual monarch's journey, this will be the first time it's possible for conservationists to see how day-to-day environmental conditions impact their behavior.

"We'll be able to see what types of habitats they actually spend their time in," Green says. "That will help inform where we should focus efforts for conservation activity."

Monarchs are particularly important for conservation, for they act as a sentinel species. Since monarchs travel to many different locations, they show us how the collective impact of human activities affect the wellbeing of an entire population.

Monarch butterflies filling the sky. Credit: University of Michigan

One of the biggest challenges has been figuring out how to pinpoint a monarch's location, for a GPS is too large and heavy to include in the device.

"We can infer the data indirectly from other primitive ultra-low power sensors using a new data-driven framework," Kim says.

The team uses deep learning algorithms and neural networks to evaluate the environmental data and infer the location based on matching conditions. The location model is created from data collected by nearly 300 volunteers who act as pseudo-butterflies. The volunteers, or citizen scientists, use sensors to collect environmental data along known monarch migration routes.

"Bicyclists travel around the same speed and the same distance as monarchs do in a particular day," Blaauw says, "so we have volunteer cyclists take larger sensors with them on multi-day trips, and we use that data to check the algorithms. It's a bit of a role reversal, for normally we use animals to model as humans in science, but this time we're using humans to model for animals."

Butterfly Vision

As you can see, what butterflies and most insects see is something that is less sharp than humans can see. This is why we say that by human standards, they are legally blind. Butterflies can also see some colors humans cannot.

The world looks different to a butterfly. What they see is different than what humans see. (illustration by Michael Hagelberg)

Visit our page on the colors animals see to learn more about color vision in animals.

Additional images provided by Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin from Wikimedia Commons.


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