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Ecology of the Western Queen Butterfly Danaus gilippus thersippus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts

1
Wild Energy Initiative, John Muir Institute of the Environment, University of California, Davis, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616, USA
2
Department of Entomology and Nematology, 1 Shields Ave., University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
3
USDA-ARS, Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Research Unit, 3026 Bee Biology Rd, Davis, CA 95616, USA
4
Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, 1 Shields Ave., University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Insects 2020, 11(5), 315; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11050315 (registering DOI)
Received: 8 April 2020 / Revised: 11 May 2020 / Accepted: 12 May 2020 / Published: 19 May 2020
The purpose of this study was to assess the ecological knowledge surrounding the western queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus thersippus (H. Bates). Specifically, our objectives were to synthesize existing data and knowledge on the ecology of the queen and use results of this assessment to inform the direction of future research on this understudied species. We identified six core areas for assessment: distribution, the biodiversity of plant resources, western queen and their host plant phenology, chemical ecology, and four key life history traits. We mapped the distribution of D. g. thersippus from museum specimen records, citizen science (e.g., iNaturalist) and image sharing app-based observations, along with other observational data enumerating all current known plant resources and long-range movements. We assembled 14 larval food plants, six pyrrolizidine alkaloids plants and six nectar plants distributed in the western Mojave and Sonoran Desert regions of the United States and Baja California. We report on its phenology and its long-range movement. Butterfly species have declined across the western US, and western monarch populations have declined by 97%. Danaus g. thersippus has received little research attention compared with its famous congener D. plexippus L. Danaus g. thersippus’ desert distribution may be at its temperature limits for the species distribution and for its rare host plant Asclepias nyctaginifolia. View Full-Text
Keywords: citizen science; Danaus gilippus thersippus; iNaturalist; queen butterfly; milkweed; Asclepias; pyrrolizidine alkaloids; Mojave Desert; monarch butterfly; Sonoran Desert citizen science; Danaus gilippus thersippus; iNaturalist; queen butterfly; milkweed; Asclepias; pyrrolizidine alkaloids; Mojave Desert; monarch butterfly; Sonoran Desert
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Saul-Gershenz, L.; Grodsky, S.M.; Hernandez, R.R. Ecology of the Western Queen Butterfly Danaus gilippus thersippus (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. Insects 2020, 11, 315.

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