What Is Butterfly Conservation?

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  • Written By: L. Whitaker
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Butterfly conservation is an umbrella term describing the work of a variety of organizations worldwide that seek to assist in research, species recovery efforts, and public education toward the goal of preserving at-risk butterfly species in the wild. Such organizations exist in many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States. Often these groups work in conjunction with other organizations, including nonprofits, scientific institutions, and national agencies.

Endangered or imperiled butterflies face a variety of threats. The problems facing butterfly populations can include the reduction of breeding or habitation sites because of deforestation, development, or natural disasters. Other factors that threaten some varieties of butterflies include pesticide use, non-native predators, diseases, and loss of plant species that typically host butterfly larvae. Butterfly conservation efforts seek to lessen the impact of these threats on specific butterfly species.

An effective species recovery plan requires detailed information about the needs of specific butterfly populations. For some species, sufficient amounts of data are not yet available for the creation of a thorough recovery plan. Some butterfly conservation organizations seek to help fill in the information gaps by providing support for the gathering of research data on specific types of at-risk butterflies.


In the arena of butterfly conservation, the nature of recovery efforts can vary depending on the needs of a specific population. Some aquariums and zoos that are properly accredited for butterfly handling have been engaging in the captive rearing and subsequent wild release of certain butterfly species. An example of another type of butterfly recovery effort was the 2004 release of caterpillars into two United States national parks to support a faltering wild population of Miami blue butterflies. After the release, scientists continued to monitor the developing butterflies and gather data on the recovering population. In some areas, landowners can help on an individual level through certification of their property as a designated backyard habitat for use by butterflies.

One aim of some groups focused on butterfly conservation is to more evenly distribute recovery resources to all imperiled butterfly species, rather than allow public attention to be reserved for a few specific types. A so-called Red List references the North American butterfly species that are believed to be most at risk. For example, a 2012 list of endangered North American butterfly species included the Karner blue, Mitchell's satyr, Callippe silverspot, Laguna Mountains skipper, Palos Verdes blue, Schaus swallowtail, and San Bruno elfin.


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