Declared a federally threatened species in 1980, this butterfly lives primarily in the humid coastal headlands and salt spray meadows of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The butterfly has all but disappeared due to habitat loss and fire suppression, which allows grass to crowd out its larval host and only food plant, the Western (Early) Blue Violet (Violet adunca). In times gone by, Native Americans set small fires to maintain the meadows. As human population growth continues, it continually encroaches upon and affects the habitat of the Silverspot. In 1999 the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle) and Lewis and Clark College began a Captive Rearing and Release Program to save these beautiful pollinators from extinction and aid in their recovery.
Butterflies and insects play an essential role in the ecological balance on Earth. Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson says that if we were to wipe out insects alone — which we are trying hard to do— the rest of the planet’s life would disappear within a few months. Humans need insects to live. Butterflies are insects in the order Lepidoptera. They are a valuable source of food for songbirds. They pollinate wild plants and crops required for the survival of plants, animals and humans. Highly sensitive to ecological and climatic change, butterflies are key indicators of ecosystem imbalance.
Once common on the Oregon Coast, the beautiful golden and brown medium sized is a member of the true fritillary family, or silverspot butterflies. The Oregon Silverspot Butterfly population crashed in 1988 and the species was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1980.
In 1999, The Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Xerces Society, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy, Washington Department of Corrections, Department of Defense and several local universities including Lewis and Clark College began recovery efforts with a captive rearing and release program. The recovery plan prioritizes maintaining existing populations, and protecting and enhancing existing habitat in six designated conservation areas. About 2,000 butterflies are released each year at the Oregon Coast. There are now thriving populations of butterflies on the coast, and studies suggest the recovery is making headway.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP THE BUTTERFLIES
Growing native wild flowers is one of the best actions you can take to help save these delicate painted masterpieces.
For the Silverspot, grow rare Early Blue Violets. Their leaves are the only source of food for its caterpillars.
Keep your yard free of chemicals.
Keep some of your yard wild!
Plant a butterfly garden at your local school or library.
The butterfly reference photograph is by Michael Durham, Each of the exhibition paintings is available as a finely crafted giclee, printed by Paul McCormick of Waimea on Hawai’i Island, and has been inspected, signed and numbered by artist Calley O’Neill.