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While butterfly responses to climate change are well studied, detailed analyses of the seasonal dynamics of range expansion are few. Therefore, the seasonal range expansion of the butterfly Heliconius charithonia L. (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) was analyzed using a database of sightings and collection records dating from 1884 to 1992 from Texas. First and last sightings for each year were noted, and residency time calculated, for each collection locality. To test whether sighting dates were a consequence of distance from source (defined as the southernmost location of permanent residence), the distance between source and other locations was calculated. Additionally, consistent directional change over time of arrival dates was tested in a well-sampled area (San Antonio). Also, correlations between temperature, rainfall, and butterfly distribution were tested to determine whether butterfly sightings were influenced by climate. Both arrival date and residency interval were influenced by distance from source: butterflies arrived later and residency time was shorter at more distant locations. Butterfly occurrence was correlated with temperature but not rainfall. Residency time was also correlated with temperature but not rainfall. Since temperature follows a north-south gradient this may explain the inverse relationship between residency and distance from entry point. No long-term directional change in arrival dates was found in San Antonio. The biological meaning of these findings is discussed suggesting that naturalist notes can be a useful tool in reconstructing spatial dynamics.
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