Revival a possibility for rare butterfly species

January 1, 2013 by  

A now rare species of butterfly that was once a common resident of the Minnesota prairies could experience a resurgence – thanks to a program headed by a Minnesota biologist.

The small butterfly larvae, numbering 20 in all, are currently being cared for by a biologist from Minnesota Zoo, which is just half an hour’s drive from St. Paul. The program is believed to represent the last hope for the species.

A report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press highlighted the fact that the species – called the Poweshiek Skipperling – at one time fluttered and floated across more than two million acres of prairie land in Minnesota. Today, however, the species has almost completely disappeared.

There are a number of known populations of the species in both Michigan and Wisconsin, but it is now widely believed that the brown and white striped butterfly is already extinct in this state.

However, Erik Runquist – who works as a conservation biologist – hopes to revive the species. The 20 larvae in his care are each no larger than a single rice grain.

Through the successful breeding of new Poweshiek generations, Runquist and state officials aim to figure out just what caused the species to disappear from the Minnesota prairies. News concerning conservation efforts is often publicized using flyer printing, generating public interest and often garnering donations from interested entities.

The Poweshiek Skipperling belongs to the family Hesperiidae – commonly known as skippers – which belongs to the subfamily Hesperiinae, or grass skippers. This variety of butterfly in the United States – despite disappearing from Minnesota – is found in states near the Great Lakes all the way to Mexico in the south.