project news

Indicative Insects

News item submitted by Flora O'Brien
News item dated 9 Dec 2010

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In the forest of Kampong Leng, Cambodia, beautiful butterflies and dazzling dragonflies have been one of the Frontier team’s main research subjects. Cambodia has a wealth of insect species, such as the comical looking lantern bug (Pyrops candelaria) and fearsome tarantulas, which are actually one of the country’s delicacies. Frontier’s research aims to compare the abundance and diversity of butterfly and dragonfly species found in Kampong Leng to those recorded in Botum Sakor National Park. In addition to recording the species present, the team have been performing habitat surveys to determine whether there are any links between the species present and the habitat type. Similar surveys are being conducted on the dragonfly species in the area, with the hope that their presence or absence may provide useful indicators of habitat quality.

Meanwhile, a caterpillar breeding programme is underway. This may sound somewhat trivial, but it will hopefully serve two purposes. Firstly, it could help identify links between species and host plants, which in turn may mean that various species could be used as indicators of floral biodiversity and ecosystem health.  Secondly, it will enable researchers to photograph the butterflies at both their pupal and larval stages which may contribute towards creating a field guide to the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) of Cambodia. Lepidoptera are a highly diverse order, comprising an estimated 160,000 species. As they are highly sensitive to environmental change, Lepidoptera can be useful indicators of habitat disturbance and ecosystem health. Since little is known about the insects of Cambodia, this is highly valuable research and this knowledge could be used to determine the need for conservation measures within the region.

 
The Common Evening Brown butterfly (Melanitis leda), found in Botum Sakor National Park.

 

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