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How environmental conditions and changing landscapes influence the survival and reproduction of a rare butterfly, Pieris virginiensis (Pieridae)

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Post Last Updated: December 2022

About This Piece

This piece was originally created & published in March 2014

This was my first published paper, and it explored the biogeographical factors relating to survival of this rare butterfly, the West Virginia White. We tracked the same field site for several years, finding little to no evidence of survival of this rare butterfly. Evidence was tenuous, mostly because the similarities between P. virginiensis and P. rapae are many, and the ability to identify either very small things (e.g., eggs, neonate caterpillars) or white butterflies flying through the air at a distance, is challenging. In any case, this was my first paper, and now it's open access! Yay!

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Pieris virginiensis Edwards, the West Virginia White butterfly, is a rare, univoltine butterfly native to riparian areas of mature forests in North America, from Wisconsin to Vermont, and as far south as northern Georgia and Alabama (Finnell & Lehn 2007). Pieris virginiensis has been considered in decline due to forest disturbance via logging, fragmentation, deer grazing pressure, and plant invasion (Finnell & Lehn 2007). It is considered rare, but has not yet been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, and there are no long-term studies of P. virginiensis populations to confirm anecdotal observations of continual decline (IUCN 2012). Although there are butterfly monitoring organizations, P. virginiensis is frequently overlooked as it flies early in the spring in forested areas, which are not major sources of butterfly diversity and are not often regularly monitored.

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