MONTREAL, July 16, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Montréal Space for Life, and more specifically the Montréal Botanical Garden and Insectarium, are welcoming some new visitors from southern climes. In the past few weeks, caterpillars of a species of butterfly previously unknown this far north, the giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes Cramer), were discovered on a prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum Mill.). This is the first time the species has visited the Botanical Garden on its own.
This is a majestic and amazingly large butterfly, with a wingspan of up to 15 cm, or the size of a dinner plate! In fact it is the largest butterfly in North America. Its presence here is directly related to climate change. In recent decades, milder temperatures in Nordic zones have enabled it to survive the winter and colonize new habitats. Giant swallowtails have gradually moved into Quebec, and the first native chrysalises are about to undergo metamorphosis at the Botanical Garden any day now! Our entomological experts, including Maxim Larrivée, are quite excited about this development, since they will now be able to study the giant swallowtail at close range.
Coming to Quebec
Giant swallowtails normally live in Central and South America and in North America as far north as the southern tip of Canada. Starting in the late 1990s, they began showing up in the northeastern United States and finally arrived in southern Quebec this spring. While other butterfly species are also edging northward at a rate of 16 km per decade, the giant swallowtail is moving into new habitats at a rate 15 times faster than average. Its range now extends a full 400 km into areas previously too inhospitable to support a viable population. Great swallowtail caterpillars, which normally feed on citrus leaves, enjoy munching on hops and prickly ash, a shrub, both found in southern Quebec. The butterfly's arrival in Greater Montréal is a very clear example of the impact of climate change.
Chat with an expert
To learn more about this new Botanical Garden resident, journalists are invited to meet Maxim Larrivée, an entomology expert who recently joined the Insectarium team as entomological collections and research Section Head. He holds a Master's in Landscape Ecology from Carleton University and a PhD in Entomology from McGill University, and specializes in studying the impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on insect distribution - butterflies and moths in particular.
For further information:
Nadine Fortin, Communications Co-ordinator
514 868-3053/514 250-7753
François Ouellet, Communications Assistant
Visual available on request