The Poweshiek skipperling butterfly has been identified as a candidate to be put on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. Some experts believe the butterfly is already gone from Iowa, but F-W-S endangered species biologist Phil Delphey, says there are still some in other states.
He says the endangered species designation could help preserve the remaining butterflies, but he says getting them back into Iowa could be tough. Delphey says the adult butterflies only fly about two weeks out of the year and the rest of the time are eggs or caterpillars, so they have a very short time span where they are flying.
He says they don’t fly very far when they are adults, so if they were to recolonized an area, it would have to be very close by to where they are now. Delphey says a Wisconsin woman has been trying to figure out how to raise the butterflies in captivity, and he says there is another effort underway too.
The Minnesota Zoo is planning to hire a butterfly biologist who will try to figure out how to propagate the Poweshiek skipperling and later the Dakota skipper. Delphey says the odds would likely be against any effort to artificially reintroduce the Poweshiek skipperling into Iowa.
Delphey says when it comes to endangered species, they’ve had success reintroducing a few species of fresh-water mussels. He says it’s always “a costly endeavor” so they would probably only do that in areas where they think there’s a good chance of success and reintroducing them would have a “tangible benefit to the conservation of the species.”
Delphey says there are several steps to go through before the butterfly is added to the list. Delphey says a service biologist is working on a proposed rule that will be published in the federal register and will describe the threat to the species, and the areas that should be designated as special habitat.
The final decision on moving the Poweshiek skipperling to the endangered species list is at least a year or more away.