Endangered Lange’s Metalmark butterfly gets by with help of friends

Captive Breeding used to Boost Declining Population of Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly at               Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refugellanges-metalmark-butterfly-1

In August ’08 biologists from Moorpark College, The Urban Wildlands Group, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released adults and caterpillars of the Lange’s metalmark butterfly to increase their numbers at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.                                                              Antioch Dunes NWR is the only place on earth where the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly exists.

The release was the culmination of a successful captive breeding program that began last year when monitoring found dangerously low numbers of the Lange’s metalmark butterfly two years in a row. The breeding program is part of a two-pronged effort to save the species.

Captive Breeding used to Boost Declining Population of Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly. Credit: Jerry Powell September 11, 2008

This butterfly, like most others, has a close relationship with the food plant of its larvae, in this case naked-stemmed buckwheat (Eriogonum nudum). Adults emerge in late summer. They live for approximately one week during which time they feed, mate, and locate the host buckwheat on which to deposit the eggs. The eggs are dormant for several weeks. Then, as the fall rains begin and new growth of Eriogonum appears, the eggs hatch and the tiny larvae begin to feed. Feeding continues through the winter and spring with pupation occurring in the next summer.

The Antioch Dunes have faced mining, construction, agriculture and trampling by unknowing recreationists. But, ultimately, one of the biggest problems faced by Lange’s metalmark is a fundamental change in the dune structure. Formerly a dynamic mosaic of open sand and vegetation, the dunes have slowly been stabilized by the removal of sand and by the introduction of plants which have spread over the sand and now prevent much sand movement. Under these conditions, the host Eriogonum does not reproduce well. Its seedlings require open sand to become established. The realization that disturbance was important in the maintenance of the dunes was critical. Now through intentional disturbance, efforts at encouraging the host plant have proven much more fruitful. The butterfly’s numbers are on the rise, from fewer than 200 individuals in 1986 to several thousand in recent years. With much of the area already a preserve, and with the cooperation of PG & E on whose land the species also relies, the prognosis for Lange’s Metalmark is relatively good.

Lange’s metalmark (Apodemia mormo langei) is a brightly colored butterfly in the Riodinidae (metalmark) family. Adult wingspan varies from 1 to 1.5 inch. Dorsal wings are largely black with white spots. Red-orange coloration extends through the inner forward half of the forewing, the hindwing bases, and a small central patch subtended by black. Ventrally, the wings have a more muted pattern of gray, white, black, and orange.

*Pacific Gas and Electric Company is the only private landowner with butterflies on their property and there is a conservation easement in place.

Education zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens with butterflies, butterfly houses, natural history museums) or events at which BFCI partners participate are a valuable way to disseminate information about imperiled butterflies to public anf private sector alike.

Excerpts courtesy of http://www.butterflyrecovery.org/species_profiles/langes_metalmark/

Excerpts courtesy of http://essig.berkeley.edu/endins/metalmk.htm

Image courtesy of file:///Users/healthyliving/Desktop/Langes%20Metalmark%20Butterfly%20::%20Butterflies%20Wallpaper%20::%20Wallpaper-Downloads.info.webarchive\

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