Sometimes a net is mightier than a fork!

This post is a guest contribution from Sean Ryan and Meredeth Doellman of The Pieris Project. Read on to see how you can become involved with some exciting citizen science!

Pieris rapae
photo by Flikr user Dendroica cerulea through a Creative Commons license

Invasivore.org has had fun developing novel ways to engage the public with invasive species, but what do you do with those invasives that aren’t so filling? Answer: Put down your fork and pick up your butterfly net! (at least when the invasive is a butterfly.) Invasive species are not only tasty, but can be useful to study how organisms adapt to new environments and climate change. For example, by understanding how an invasive butterfly – the cabbage white (Pieris rapae) – has adapted as it spread across North America, folks at The Pieris Project hope to gain insights as to how other species may adapt to similar environmental changes. The Pieris Project is a partnership with the public (you!) to collect this invasive butterfly from across the US, and soon the world!

The cabbage white is believed to have invaded the entire US, most of North America, and many other parts of the world; it’s pretty much everywhere but Antarctica. The butterflies were introduced to North America from Europe in the late 1800s and spread from eastern Canada across North America within only a few decades. The caterpillars feed on many agricultural crops (plants in the mustard family such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts), which is in part why they have been able to invade many parts of the world; these invaders are eating our food!

This year, the Pieris Project wants to collect at least 20 butterflies from each US state and as many countries from across the world as they can.  Helping them reach this goal is easy, partly because these butterflies have invaded everywhere, including your backyard! To get involved is easy: visit pierisproject.org to learn how to catch them, where to send them, and what cool things we hope to learn about them. By catching a few butterflies from your hometown, you can join the many citizen scientists that are helping to use this invasive species to learn how other native species of butterflies will respond to changes in their environment, such as climate change, habitat destruction, and changes in land-use. Thanks for your help, and we wish you happy hunting!

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