08 June, 2020

An Effective and Affordable Camera Trap for Monitoring Flower-visiting Butterflies in Sandhills: with Implications for Frosted Elfins

by Dave McElveen and Robert T. Meyer

Trail camera set to photograph butterflies visiting
sundial lupine in north Florida.
Recent advancements have increased both storage and resolution capabilities making trail cameras a cost-effective tool in animal monitoring. Previous studies have used camera traps to monitor pollinators but no studies have implemented this technique for butterflies in the US. In this study, we used a trail camera to monitor a patch of sundial lupine for the imperiled frosted elfin butterfly. A total of 219 individual insects were observed, of which only ~3% were completely unidentifiable. We found the vast majority of photographed butterflies were identifiable to the family-level. Additionally, some of those butterflies were identified further to the species-level including those as small as the whirlabout (~2.5 - 3.2 cm wingspan). We believe trail cameras can provide a useful and inexpensive way to sample small butterflies across large areas when human observers are not always feasible.

Read the scientific publication in JPE.

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