Attention all you butterfly lovers out there! The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois, is dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of Midwestern environmental issues and has made incredible strides in the conservation and restoration of the stunning swamp metalmark. Read this next installment in the Going WILD in Illinois mini blog series to learn just how threatened this butterfly is and how the Museum is working to protect it!
The Swamp Metalmark: An At-Risk Species
The swamp metalmark (Calephelis muticum) is a small yellow and rust colored butterfly from the central United States. It formerly ranged from Michigan and Ohio south to Kentucky and west to Arkansas, Wisconsin and Iowa. Populations have recently been discovered in Alabama and northeastern Oklahoma. It inhabits alkaline wetlands called fens, where its host plant, swamp thistle (Cirsium muticum), grows.
As a result of destruction of many fen wetlands, swamp metalmarks are now critically imperiled through most of their range. With the exception of Missouri, the species has received a sub-national heritage ranking of S1 or S2 (critically imperiled or imperiled) in all states where it occurs. There are more populations in Missouri, however even there it is classified as vulnerable.
Conservation efforts through most of the species’ range consist of monitoring and habitat protection. Some active restoration efforts are taking place in the upper Midwest. For example, biologists at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago recently released lab-reared adults onto a fen in northeastern Illinois in an attempt to return the species to that part of its range. The release site was the known home of a population of swamp metalmarks that disappeared sometime between 1940 and 1980. Since the early 1980s, extensive ecological restoration work has removed invasive species and restored hydrology to the site, paving the way for the return of the butterfly.
Doug Taron, Curator of Biology and VP of Research and Conservation, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
I think we can all agree that the valuable work of The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in support of the swamp metalmark can not be understated! To keep up with the conservation efforts and general goings-on at the museum, have a look at their blog and to explore more Illinois species, dive into our new Illinois feature page. Thanks for sharing a wonderful conservation story with us, Doug!