Taylor's (Whulge) Checkerspot Butterfly

Euphydryas editha taylori

Overview

Taylors Whulge Checkerspot Butterfly

Photo by: Dana Ross

The Taylor's (Whulge) checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) is in imminent danger of going extinct. There are only four known populations, three in Washington and one in Oregon. Three of the populations contain fewer than fifty individuals based on surveys conducted in 2002. The Taylor's checkerspot is threatened most by the degradation and destruction of its habitat. Agricultural and urban development, encroachment of trees, and spread of invasive plants all continue to threaten the native grasslands in which it is found. In addition, pesticide use and recreational activities pose a direct threat to the butterflies themselves.

Description

The Taylor's checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) is the darkest subspecies of the Edith checkerspot (Euphydryas editha). It is a medium-sized, colorfully checkered butterfly with a wingspan less than 2.25 inches (~6 cm). The ventral surface of the wings are primarily orange with bands of white cells. The dorsal surface of the wings has a proportionate mix of black, orange, and white. Compared to other E. editha subspecies, Taylor's checkerspot has the stubbiest, roundest wings. The dorsal side of the wings has more black separating the spot-bands than other subspecies.

Life History

The Taylor's checkerspot is known from open grasslands and oak balds where food plants for larvae and nectar sources for adults are available. Taylor's checkerspot larvae have been documented feeding on members of the figwort or snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae), including paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) as well as native and non-native Plantago spp. in the plantain family (Plantaginacea).

Distribution

The Taylor's checkerspot was once found throughout grasslands in the Willamette Valley, Puget Sound, and south Vancouver Island. The historic range and abundance of the Taylor's checkerspot is not precisely known because exhaustive searches did not occur until recently. Northwest grasslands were formerly more common, larger, and interconnected - conditions that would have supported a greater distribution and abundance of Taylor's checkerspot. Before its dramatic decline, the Taylor's checkerspot was documented at more than seventy sites in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. The range of the Taylor's checkerspot has contracted severely. Currently, it is extirpated from British Columbia and all but one locale in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Conservation Status

The Taylor's (Whulge) checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) is in imminent danger of going extinct. We are certain of the existence of only four populations, three of which contain fewer than fifty individuals based on surveys conducted in 2002. The species is clearly in decline, which is best exemplified by (1) its recent extirpation from British Columbia and (2) the recent loss of a Washington site that in 1997 had close to 7,000 individuals.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has an active conservation program for the Taylor's checkerspot. Two of the sites are on Washington State owned land. The Xerces Society is working with a local land trust to see if the site in Oregon can be protected.

Conservation Needs

Working with landowners

One site is located on private land in Oregon. The Xerces Society is working with a local land trust to see if a conservation easement or purchase can be arranged with the landowner.

Education

Education sheets available at zoological facilities (e.g. zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens with butterflies, butterfly houses, natural history museums) or events at which Butterfly Conservation Initiative partners participate are a valuable way to disseminate information about imperiled butterflies.

When schools and other youth organizations study biodiversity and species extinctions they typically use examples of charismatic megafauna (e.g. bald eagles) or exotic creatures from the tropics. However, vulnerable species found within the state or ecoregion in which students live provide an excellent opportunity to develop curricular materials with a direct link to the students' home region. In addition to classroom studies, students may be able to visit sites to see the butterflies, as well as talk to the scientists and land managers involved in the species' conservation.

Educational activities that school students and community members could do include:

  • studying butterfly (insect) life stages;
  • researching the special habitat needs of the Taylor's checkerspot;
  • corresponding or meeting with the biologists managing current Taylor's checkerspot sites;
  • visiting Taylor's checkerspot sites during adult flight season;
  • visiting captive breeding programs;
  • assisting scientists with on-site habitat management;
  • propagating and growing host plants for planting at butterfly sites or use in captive breeding programs; and
  • writing letters to decision makers to ensure that the Taylor's checkerspot receives adequate resources and protection.

Research

WDFW has initiated surveys and research into habitat needs of the Washington populations. The Xerces Society plans to initiate a survey for additional Oregon populations during the 2004 flight season.

Captive Rearing

WDFW has just initiated research into captive rearing.

Recovery Plan

None

For more information

  • WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife: Ann Potter, Wildlife Biologist. 600 Capitol Way N, Olympia, WA 98501-1091. (360) 902-2496. potteaep@dfw.wa.gov
  • The Xerces Society: Mace Vaughan, Staff Entomologist. 4828 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97215, Phone (503) 534-2706 sblack@xerces.org
  • James Miskelly, graduate student, University of Victoria. j_miskelly@hotmail.com
  • David McCorkle, Lepidopterist and Emeritus Professor, Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR. mccorkd@wou.edu

References and Resources

  • Boyd, R. 1986. Strategies of Indian burning in the Willamette Valley. Canadian Journal of Anthropology 5:65-86.
  • Char, P and P.D. Boersma. 1995. The Effects of Prairie Fragmentation on Butterfly Species in Western Washington. Final Report Submitted to the Nature Conservancy, Washington Field Office and The U.S. Army, Fort Lewis, WA.
  • Crawford, R. and H. Hall. 1997. Changes in the South Puget Prairie Landscape. Ecology and Conservation of the South Puget Sound Prairie Landscape. The Nature Conservancy, Seattle, Washington. 289 pp.
  • Ehrlich, P.R. 1992. Population biology of checkerspot butterflies and the preservation of global biodiversity. Oikos. 63:6-12.
  • Fleckenstein, J, and A. Potter. 1999. 1997, 1998 Project Summary, Puget Prairie Butterfly Surveys. Washington Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Fuchs, M.A. 2001. Towards a Recovery Strategy for Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems in Canada: Ecological Assessment and Literature Review. Technical Report GBEI/EC-00-030. Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific and Yukon Region.
  • Guppy, C.S. and J.H. Shepard. 2001. Butterflies of British Columbia: Including Western Alberta, Southern Yukon, the Alaska Panhandle, Washington, Northern Oregon, Northern Idaho, and Northwestern Montana. UBC Press. Vancouver, B.C. 413 pp.
  • Hays, D. W., A.E. Potter, C.W. Thompson, and P.V. Dunn. 2000. Critical Habitat Components for Four Rare South Puget Sound Butterflies. Final Report.
  • Larsen, E.M., E. Rodrick, and R. Milner, eds. 1995. Management recommendations for Washington's priority species, Volume 1: Invertebrates. Wash. Dept. Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 82 pp.
  • Murphy, D.D., A.E. Launer, and P.R. Ehrlich. 1983. The role of adult feeding in egg production and population dynamics of the checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha). Oecologica. 56:257-263.
  • Norton, H.H. 1979. The association between anthropogenic prairies and important food plants in western Washington. Northwest Anthropological Research Notes. 13175-200.
  • Pyle, R.M. 1989. Washington Butterfly Conservation Status Report and Plan. Report submitted to the nongame program of the Washington Department of Wildlife.
  • Pyle, R.M. 2002. The Butterflies of Cascadia. Seattle Audubon Society. Seattle, WA. 420 pp.
  • Shepard, J.H. 2000. Status of Five Butterflies and Skippers in British Columbia. B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch and Resour. Inv. Branch, Victoria, BC. 27 pp.
  • USFWS Taylor's checkerspot page

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Classification

Federal Candidate Species (Petitioned for federal endangered species status on December 10, 2002).

State Status

Candidate species.

Range

OR, WA

Critical Habitat

None designated

Acknowledgement

This profile was prepared by the Xerces Society for the Butterfly Conservation Initiative.