Cool Spring Could Curb Local Butterfly Population

(CBS) — The extreme temperatures this winter may mean a less colorful spring this year.

CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports with so much ice coverage on the Great Lakes, we may be in for a cooler than normal spring and that could take a toll on the butterfly population.

Butterflies love the lush, humid habitat at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, but they might not love our spring outlook.

“Cool, damp conditions promote fungal growth, mold, and bacterial growth,” said Steve Sullivan, Senior Curator of Ecology at the Notebaert Museum. “Those fungus and bacteria can attack these baby caterpillars and kill them before they have the chance to turn into butterflies.”

Sullivan said there is some potential that some butterfly species populations will be below normal.

The winter we’ve had hasn’t helped either with lingering arctic invasions and a slow build of snow cover. Snow cover is necessary for baby butterflies, hat’s the blanket they snuggle into while they’re hibernating.

“The temperature up here near at surface of the blanket might be say minus 20 degrees, as we dig down to the base… you’ll find that the temperature is maybe closer to 32 degrees, just barely freezing and so in fact animals that can live below the snow but above the ground, have an opportunity to experience milder temperatures than animals that are up here in the atmosphere where it’s windy and cold,” Sullivan said.

Even if we have fewer butterflies around this spring, the good news is the few that survive will help the population rebound the next year.

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