Butterfly and vehicle interactions

As a cyclist, it is common to encounter animals that have been struck and killed by cars along roads. It appears the frequency with which these encounters are made is influenced by traffic volume, traffic speed, and quality of roadside habitat. While a big, bloated deer or reeking skunk will attract the attention of the most unaware road users – the carnage is not limited to mammals. Striking insects with a car is inconsequential to a motorist and it is not until the carnage has reached epic proportions that the motorist takes note and the windshield wipers will be engaged. Otherwise insect collisions are meaningless to most motorists.

Butterflies can be a common part of the roadside insect milieu. McKenna et al. (2001) estimated that 20 MILLION Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) were killed in one week on the Illinois road network.

Recently, while out on my bicycle, I noted a dark swallowtail dead on the shoulder along highway 45E south of Martin, TN. The Lepidoptera fauna from this part of Tennessee is

30 June 2013, highway 45E, Weakley County, Tennessee

30 June 2013, highway 45E, Weakley County, Tennessee

poorly known, so I doubled back and documented the insect with my cell phone. This photograph was submitted to BAMONA, and provided documentation of Papilio troilus in Weakley County. The simple documentation of species within an area is the first step in conserving species.

The riders in the Tour de France are probably not looking for dead insects along roadways as they ramble through the French countryside and I would hate to see the peloton crash because a leader saw a cool roadkill butterfly (like Parnassius apollo). However, the Tour de France does go through some spectacular habitats and this year’s tour has had quite a few crashes already…

Keep your eyes open and be safe!


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