Document Type



Lepidoptera, butterflies, endangered, prairie, management


Including strays, 122 species of butterflies have been confirmed in Iowa. However, since European settlement the populations of taxa of Iowa Lepidoptera have declined. While certain generalist species have experienced declines, species with life cycles that include native habitats, especially prairies and wetlands, have been particularly vulnerable. In a 1994 revision of the Iowa endangered and threatened species list, the Natural Resource Commission (NRC) listed two species of butterflies as endangered, five as threatened, and 25 as special concern, using general legal definitions of those rankings (NRC 1994). But after examining recent records, we have revised that list, using numbers of remaining sites as a scale of rarity. Of the 100 species of resident butterflies, one species is believed extirpated, eight are critically endangered, 15 are endangered, and 21 are threatened. Iowa's moth fauna is poorly sampled but may show similar trends of decline in restricted habitats. Monitoring and habitat preservation efforts are ongoing. However, the effects of current efforts to manage lepidoptera populations are unproven and may even be detrimental. With continued habitat fragmentation, pesticide use, succession, and fire management, Lepidoptera diversity in Iowa is likely to continue to decline. Preservation of native remnants and management plans that recognize the key role of invertebrates are essential for the long-term health of remnant ecosystems.

Publication Date

June 1998

Journal Title

Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science





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© Copyright 1998 by the Iowa Academy of Science, Inc.



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