Fourth Annual White Mountain Butterfly Count and Insect Survey, 2008

Shasta Blue (Plebejus shasta) near White Mountain Peak.

The fourth annual "4th of July" White Mountain Butterfly Count and Insect Survey was held on Tuesday July 22, 2008. 8 counters gathered at the Crooked Creek station at 8:00 am and drove up to the highest part of the Barcroft Plateau known as "NASA Flats" (elevation 13,200' - 4025m) to begin counting. We had wonderful weather, a warm cloudless day with very little wind except in the early morning at the highest site. The result ws the highest diversity of species seen to date, 20 positively IDed species and two more IDed to genus.

In 2007 we recorded huge numbers of Shasta Blue Butterflies (Plebejus shasta) at the foot of White Mountain Peak (the "NASA flats" site). This year we saw many (67) but nothing llike the numbers last year. We did notice large numbers of hunting wasps this year...maybe they are hunting Shasta Blue caterpillars? It may be a little early in the year this year, however, so we will check back in a few weeks. We also saw quite few of the gorgeous Lustrous Coppers (Lycaena cupreus).

After four years of counting, we have seen that the Blues are the only diverse taxon to be regularly found in the high White Mountains. This year we saw several of each of 4 species of Plebejus: P. saepiolus, P. icarioides, P. shasta, and P. lupinus. This may reflect the preference of these species for legumes and buckwheats, the cushion forms of which are abundant in the rocky fellfields.

The count totals, by site and by species, may be seen in the count excel spreadsheet. Site information may be found in the count site excel spreadsheet.

(above left) Number of families goes up with more snowfall in the preceding winter.

The 2008 insect survey results generally fell between those observed during 2006 and 2007.  Sweep samples averaged 62 individuals, 17 species, and twelve families.  Dominance and diversity also fell between 2006 and 2007 values.  2007 was a dry year, 2006 was wet, and 2008 was intermediate.  Most of the measures that we calculated to describe the insects and spider assemblages were generally correlated with estimates of snow water equivalent (SWE, see the example figures) across years.

The dominance of any one group of animals goes down with more snowfall in the preceding winter.

"Butterfly Gothic" after a hard days' counting.(Denise why are you smiling?)

2008 counters (L to R) Chelsea Clifford (Jeff and Jutta's field assistant), Derham Giuliani, Jutta Schmidt-Gengenbach, Jeff Holmquist, Denise Waterbury, John Smiley, and Daniel Pritchett standing on the steps at Crooked Creek. Not shown: Paul McFarland

Spectacular site on Barcroft Plateau 7-22-08

"butterfly handshake"

no nets this year (except for collecting a few vouchers)