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Environ Entomol. 2010 Jun;39(3):907-11. doi: 10.1603/EN09340.

Environmental elements involved in communal roosting in Heliconius butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae).

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Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Several Heliconius L. butterflies species form nocturnal aggregations in sites with a particular architecture. Roosts are usually formed under relatively dense vegetation mats where dry vines or branches provide a perch for the night. These sites may last for months. To understand the importance of factors related to the expression of Heliconius roosting, data on light, temperature, relative humidity, wind, and use of wing color cues were recorded at H. erato and H. sara roost sites in Costa Rica and Panama in 2008 and 2009. The results show that roost sites offer reduced light conditions at dusk, provide a drier environment compared with its vicinity, and offer protection from wind and rain. Moreover, individuals use wing color recognition under reduced light conditions at dusk to successfully assemble aggregations. These findings provide key information for future experiments to study the use of landmarks, hygrosensitivity, and dim-light eye adaptations in Heliconius navigation to find roost sites.

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