An experimental examination of the effects of habitat quality on the dispersal and local abundance of the butterfly Parnassius smintheus


Stephen F. Matter, Division of Science, Truman State University, Kirksville, MO 63501, U.S.A. E-mail: smatter@


Abstract 1. Nectar flower abundance was manipulated through flower removal, and sex ratio was manipulated by moving individual butterflies within a series of nine alpine meadows. The movement and abundance of the butterfly Parnassius smintheus in the meadows were monitored using mark–release–recapture methods.

2. A total of 937 butterflies, 698 males and 239 females, was captured. There were 223 observed between-meadow movements. Fifty-two per cent of males and 35% of females moved among meadows.

3. The immigration of male butterflies was related positively to nectar flowers, host plant abundance, and female butterflies. Male emigration was not affected by any of the treatments. The number of males captured was related positively to nectar flowers and host plants but not affected by sex ratio. The number of resident male butterflies was greater in meadows containing flowers and was related positively to host plant abundance, but unaffected by sex ratio.

4. Flower removal, sex ratio, and abundance of Sedum had no significant effect on the abundance, movement, or residence time for female butterflies, in part due to small sample size.

5. The fact that males immigrate to higher quality meadows suggests that male butterflies are assessing meadow quality, either by sampling meadows or potentially from a distance using olfactory cues.