Advances in phenology (the annual timing of species’ life-cycles) in response to climate change are generally viewed as bioindicators of climate change, but have not been considered as predictors of range expansions. Here, we show that phenology advances combine with the number of reproductive cycles per year (voltinism) to shape abundance and distribution trends in 130 species of British Lepidoptera, in response to ~0.5 °C spring-temperature warming between 1995 and 2014. Early adult emergence in warm years resulted in increased within- and between-year population growth for species with multiple reproductive cycles per year (n = 39 multivoltine species). By contrast, early emergence had neutral or negative consequences for species with a single annual reproductive cycle (n = 91 univoltine species), depending on habitat specialisation. We conclude that phenology advances facilitate polewards range expansions in species exhibiting plasticity for both phenology and voltinism, but may inhibit expansion by less flexible species.
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