Changes in insect populations in the field in relation to preceding weather conditions

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Williams, C. B. 1951. Changes in insect populations in the field in relation to preceding weather conditions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences. 138 (890), pp. 130-156.

AuthorsWilliams, C. B.

An attempt has been made to measure changes in a mixed insect population under natural conditions in the field, and to see to what extent they are quantitatively related to previous weather conditions. To obtain a measure of the population, insects were caught in a light-trap at Harpenden, about 25 miles north of London, every night for four years from 1933 to 1937, and again for four years from 1946 to 1950. In all about 1,440,000 insects, mostly Diptera, were captured on about 2850 nights. The measure of population level in any one month was the geometric mean catch per night, obtained by calculating the arithmetic mean of log (n + 1), where n is the number of insects caught in one night. This figure has to be corrected for the effect of prevailing weather conditions on activity. The departure of each month, on the logarithmic scale, from the average value for all repetitions of the same month gives a measure of how the population in this particular month is differing from the level to be expected for that time of the year. These departures were then made the basis of six-factor multiple regressions, in which the population change was the dependent variable, and the rainfall and minimum temperature departures from normal in each of the three preceding months were the independent variables. It is shown that a very high proportion of the mean changes of the population in the field can be accounted for by the effect of rainfall and minimum temperature in the three previous months. An examination of the regressions in the different seasons shows that rainfall has a high positive effect in the summer and autumn but little or no effect in the winter. Minimum temperature, on the contrary, has its lowest effect in the summer, so that the relation between population and minimum temperature one month previous is negative in the summer, and with temperature two months previous is negative in the autumn. The analysis of the available data has so far only been carried out on the total insect population, against rainfall and minimum temperature. Work is continuing on other weather conditions, other time intervals, and also on special groups of insects, but it is unlikely that the method can be applied with any great accuracy in the near future to single species of insects.

Year of Publication1951
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences
Journal citation138 (890), pp. 130-156
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as green open access
Publisher's version
PublisherRoyal Society of London

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