Introducing: ButterflySCAN!

ButterflyScan-logo-cropped-white-5000By Elizabeth Long

How lucky are you, Dear Reader? Two posts within a month about butterflies! We’re excited to announce the launch of a new study in conjunction with BioSCAN: ButterflySCAN! As mentioned in our last butterfly post, the sampling method that we use in BioSCAN, the Malaise trap, is an unusual way to study butterflies and not much has been written about how effective it is. Outside of the tropics the most common way to study butterfly diversity is via a method called the Pollard Walk . This is a fairly simple method that essentially consists of taking a walk along a regular, predetermined route, and writing down all of the butterflies that are seen during the walk. I love molecular genetics as much as the next biologist but I take great satisfaction in being able to do science in such a pleasant, non-technical fashion.

Pale Swallowtail (Photo credit: Zach Smith)

Pale Swallowtail (Photo credit: Zach Smith)

The ButterflySCAN project is going to conduct Pollard walks while taking advantage of the fantastic framework established through BioSCAN. This will help us learn even more about an incredibly important and charismatic pollinator group. Not only do we not know much about butterflies in Malaise traps, but very few studies have ever attempted to characterize butterfly biodiversity in an urban setting. We already know from preliminary data on flies collected from BioSCAN that LA doesn’t conform to a lot of the predictions about what happens to biodiversity in an urban environment, so now we’re very curious to see if butterflies show diversity patterns similar to flies, or if they’re doing something else entirely. Pollard walks in the neighborhoods where our BioSCAN Malaise traps are location will help us determine more about these patterns of diversity for our urban butterflies.

Queen Butterfly (Photo Credit: Zach Smith)

Queen Butterfly (Photo Credit: Zach Smith)

We need your help! We’re recruiting volunteers to help with these surveys for the next four months. Volunteers will commit to “surveying” (taking a pleasant stroll while observing and recording beautiful butterflies) one or more sites every two weeks for four months. We’ll provide training and support throughout the process, and we’ll keep you up-to-date on how the research is going via the blog, Facebook, and one-on-one feedback. Data from this study will be deposited on the continent-wide citizen science web portal eButterfly, making it available as a research tool for years (or centuries!) to come.

Marine Blue Butterfly (Photo Credit: Zach Smith)

Marine Blue Butterfly (Photo Credit: Zach Smith)

Volunteers will need to register for and attend one training session at the NHMLAC (the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park): either the morning of Wednesday, March 4th, or the morning of Saturday, March 7th. Want to help out? Get in touch with me at elong(at)nhm(dot)org


One thought on “Introducing: ButterflySCAN!

  1. Hello, I came across your blog in my research to try to find help in getting rid of a fly that has infested our home for over a year and we believe the larvae are crawling all over us, mostly at night. No traditional pest control company has been able to help, and we are desperate for answers

    We know that it is a Phorid fly, we have caught numerous samples. We had a bee hive in one of our walls for about a year, and have many ants in our house too. From what I’ve learned in my research, bees and ants are some of their favorite ways to breed. I know it’s not the “mainstream” way of thinking, but is it possible that the flies could turn to humans to “sting and lay eggs” like it does on the ants and bees, if all the ants and bees were gone?

    Please let me know if you think you can help, would like photos of what we have found (I have a cheap digital microscope to help me with identification), or even samples. We have the flies themselves, and numerous samples of what we believe to be the larvae that we find on us. They all look exactly the same under microscope, and similar to what I see online when researching phorid fly larvae, but no one believes that we have them crawling on us, and even “stinging” us.
    If we are in a confined space, like our car, and the sun is shining in just perfectly, we can see small flies coming out of our hair and flying around the vehicle.
    It has put our lives on hold, and we have gone broke trying to eradicate them.
    Any help or steering us in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.


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