The effects of environmental disturbance during the developmental stages of Painted Lady Butterflies (Vanessa cardui)

Award Category

Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Publication Date



The presence of humans has greatly altered the natural balance of countless ecosystems and has negatively impacted many individual organisms. Human activity within a natural habitat physically agitates the organisms that dwell there and can result in asymmetrical characteristics due to stress during their developmental periods. This study sought to examine the effects of stress disturbance during the developmental stages of Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui). A sample population of Painted Ladies was divided into three treatment groups: experiencing physical agitation during the larval stage, experiencing stress during the pupa stage, or not experiencing stress throughout their lifecycle. Once the butterflies emerged, forewings and hindwings were measured, wing color and pattern was examined, and wing deformations were noted. The data collected suggested that physical stress had no significant statistical effect on forewing or hindwing asymmetry, wing deformity, or time of emergence from the pupa. However, a relationship was suggested between wing deformity and wing color asymmetry in the treatment group subjected to stress during the chrysalis stage. Future research should further explore butterfly response to disturbance during their sensitive developmental periods in relation to asymmetrical wing color and deformation. With further scientific evidence, the detrimental effects of human presence in natural environments can be acknowledged and a movement towards conservation can be instigated

Faculty Advisor

Stacey Weiss


Biology 211: General Ecology