Butterfly Conservation

This week, the Imperiled Butterfly Conservation and Management Conference met at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum near Chicago, Illinois. A highlight of the program is the release of adult Baltimore Checkerspot Butterflies, a species that is rare in the area. The release is a culmination of a project to rear larvae to the adult stage.

The Baltimore Checkerspot spends the winter as a caterpillar. Many insects, including the Baltimore, suffer high mortality during the winter. This requires conservationists to rear many caterpillars in order to get a few butterflies to release. In nature, the caterpillars feed through August, then go into an overwintering stage (diapause). One of the breakthrough observations for the overwintering checkerspots is the importance of high humidity. Efforts to rear the butterflies through the Chicago winter were not very successful until it was discovered that adding moist plaster to increase the humidity of the rearing container would increase survival of the caterpillar.

The goal of many Butterfly Conservation Programs is to use rearing and release to re-establish populations of butterflies that are self-sustaining. Local extinctions of butterflies most often occur when their habitat is destroyed. If the habitat is later re-established, there may not be new individuals in the area to re-establish the insect population. Programs to rear and release butterflies can help speed up the process of re-establishing butterfly populations.

Baltimore Checkerspot
Photo: Rich Kelly

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Environment, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Butterfly Conservation

  1. Chuck Melvin says:

    Thank you for your article. We were rearing Gulf Fritillaries in our Florida home and have excellent results. When we moved everything outside, the success rate went down, but we still had lots of Gulf Fritillaries in our yard. Where would I research to find out if Central Florida needs help in re-establishing a certain butterfly? We do not have the freezing winters that Chicago does (been there), so the answer may just be planting certain host and nectar plants and trees. The Baltimore Checkerspot is beautiful. Its wing pattern is so precise, it looks like it was hand-painted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s