Insect Communities

Symposium on interacting butterflies in Bangalore

Rob, together with Marianne Espeland, will organise a symposium at the 8th Conference on Biology of Butterflies which will be organised in Bangalore, India, 11-14 June 2018. Acceptance of our symposium entitled “Interacting butterflies: From genes to communities” has been announced recently. You can check its invited speakers, together with other accepted symposia, here. Our symposium will focus on various interactions between butterflies and other organisms, including herbivory, pollination, relationships with ants, or predation. We are specifically focusing on combining molecular and “classical” ecological approaches of studying these interactions from the individual to community levels. We believe that it would be a good opportunity to connect researchers working on these topics from different points of view and by various methods and to learn from each other or even to find some connections allowing better understanding of the role of butterflies in ecosystems. If you are interested, consider your attendance as well once the conference registration will be open.

Four new positions in our group

We are opening a call for three new PhD studentships and one postdoctoral position in our research team, all of them for the pollination biology topics. For more information, check the details here. All the questions, as well as the applications following the above-linked instructions should be sent to The deadline for applications for all the positions is 20th January 2018. We are looking forward to welcome new colleagues in 2018!

New grants for our research!

Today, the successful applications for the Czech Science Foundation grants have been announced. Our group is involved in three new projects! Stepan got a new project on revealing more details of pollination by birds on Mount Cameroon. Rob is a co-investigator of a project led by Dr. David Boukal focusing on communities of polluted freshwater reservoirs in post-industrial sites. And finally, Robert and Sylvain will be members of the team led by prof. Petr Pyšek and prof. David Storch studying dynamics of south African savannas in the Kruger National Park. Challenge accepted! 😉

We will be looking for new members to work on the projects very soon! The call for three new PhD students and one post-doc will be announced by tomorrow. Undergraduate students and Erasmus interns are welcome anytime! If interested, check our “Join us” page.

Another field sampling in Cameroon is over

Two weeks ago, Vincent and Sylvain returned from their fieldwork in Cameroon, altogether it was our group’s fourth visit to Cameroon this year. Firstly, they visited the Bimbia-Bonadikombo Community Forest, the last remaining coastal forest in the foothill of Mount Cameroon, to fill the last small data gap in the local moth sampling. The sampled material will be processed as soon as possible by us and our collaborators, mainly because we want to point out the importance of this highly threatened forest and the poor state of its protection. Subsequently, they carried out the second and last sampling for our project on effect of forest elephants’ disturbance on biodiversity of Lepidoptera communities. We also expect having first results in the next year.

On Friday, Štěpán has also left to Cameroon to help ornithologist from our department in Prague. Furthermore, Rob, Vincent and Sylvain are carefully watching the situation in Zimbabwe where they are planning to go in two weeks.

A plantation inside the non-intervention zone of the Bimbia-Bonadikombo forest. © S. Delabye

Sylvain collecting moths in the Ekonjo forest.

New publication on entomological collections digitization


Examples of the compact camera’s capabilities. © BINCO/Zookeys

Jan co-authored a paper in collaboration with BINCO (NGO focusing on biodiversity conservation) where they evaluate the use of relatively inexpensive compact cameras to digitize entomological collections. Museums often lack the means and manpower to push their massive collections towards the digital era.  Similarly, many entomologists, both professional and amateur, do not have access to expensive equipment. Professional camera systems are usually on the expensive side. In the article, recently published in Zookeys, Jan and others compared few compact cameras with such a professional setup. The quality and flexibility of the compact camera proves to be more than adequate in capturing the necessary taxonomic resolution. More information and comparison images can be found in the open-access publication.

Full citation: Mertens J.E.J., Van Roie M., Merckx J., Dekoninck W. (2017) The use of low cost compact cameras with focus stacking functionality in entomological digitization projects. Zookeys 712: 141-154.

Visit of botanical colections in the Netherlands

Štěpán and Yannick checking their field identifications. © Y. Klomberg

Yannick, together with Štěpán Janeček, spent the last week in the Netherlands by visiting the national herbarium of the Netherlands based at Naturalis and to visit the Hortus botanicus in Leiden. In the herbarium they were working on further identification of plant species from Mount Cameroon and cross-checking field determinations done during our expeditions. This visit was also an opportunity to meet Dutch Afrotropical botanists and to initiate closer future collaboration.


Critically endangered butterfly at a fly ash deposit

Cover page with the Grayling picture by Marek Vojtíšek.

Our detailed study of the Grayling (Hipparchia semele), a critically endangered butterfly with a strong recent decline in Czechia, has just been published in Polish Journal of Ecology. A few years ago, Rob discovered its population at a fly ash deposit of the Tušimice Power Plant, western Czech Republic. During the consequent study, we have realised it consists of almost 900 specimens and most probably serves as the source population for the whole region. Simultaneously, we performed a detailed survey of the species’ habitat use, being the first study of Grayling at post-industrial sites. Our results have already been applied during the deposit reclamation and we hope it will contribute to its persistence in our country.


Full citation: Tropek R., Cizek O., Kadlec T., Klecka J. (2017) Habitat use of Hipparchia semele (Lepidoptera) in its artificial stronghold: Necessity of the resource-based habitat view in restoration of disturbed sitesPolish Journal of Ecology 65: 385-399.

Another fieldtrip to Cameroon

Francis and Sylvain in the Bimbia-Bonadikombo forest.

Vincent and Sylvain are currently in Cameroon for another shorter trip. They are mainly filling the last small gap in our dataset of lepidopteran biodiversity on Mount Cameroon. Currently, they are spending a bit more than a week in the Bimbia-Bonadikombo Community Forest close to Limbe where they are finishing sampling of our moth protocol. After this, they will also finish sampling of both butterflies and moths in forests non-disturbed by elephants on the Mt. Cameroon main massif. Good luck and a lot of fun!

Flower visitors of Impatiens burtonii

We have released a video presenting the recent study on the role of long nectar spurs in pollination of Impatiens burtonii (Vlašánková et al. 2017, New Phytologist). You can directly see how the individual common visitors reach the flower spur and how efficient they are in accessing its nectar resources. The video, recorded by Štěpán Janeček and finalised by Jan Mertens, is now available on our youtube account or directly below this text.

Afrotropical Lepidoptera meeting in Krakow

The team in front of our Cameroonian collection in the museum © T. Pyrcz

Last weekend, Robert, Vincent, Sylvain, Jan and Mercy attended the Afrotropical Lepidoptera Network meeting organised by Lukasz Przybylowicz at the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals in Krakow, Poland. Together, we presented our work on butterfly and moth diversity along the Mt. Cameroon altitudinal gradient, including the latest results of the effect of seasonality and forest structure, as well as the functional diversity and the pollination network studies. The meeting included also a visit to the Zoological Museum of the Jagiellonian University where all our samples are stored, which gave us a perfect chance to start new collaborations with other specialists.