Mottled Duskywing Recovery

Named for its dappling of yellow-brown spots, this butterfly occurs in small, isolated populations restricted to equally rare oak savanna, tall grass prairie, and alvar ecosystems of southwestern Ontario and southeastern Manitoba. Caterpillars feed exclusively on New Jersey tea and prairie redroot and other closely related plants.  Learn more about this species.

WPC is an active member of the Ontario Butterfly Species at Risk Recovery Team, a collaborative, multi-disciplinary group which has been leading monitoring, habitat restoration, conservation, and research activities for mottled duskywing since 2017.

In 2018, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory developed rearing techniques with a closely related common species, the wild indigo duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae). The following year the first mottled duskywings were collected and  raised in captivity. From the 12 females collected, nearly 200 individuals were released back to their source site in various life stages – larva, pupa, and second generation butterflies – plus several hundred eggs. The rearing program will act as a source for reintroductions and to increase the size of existing populations. The first reintroductions are set to occur at Pinery Provincial Park in 2021, which historically supported a population of this species.

WPC will be leading a monitoring program at Pinery Provincial Park to evaluate release efforts and fill important knowledge gaps such as dispersal distance and survival rates of different life stages, including overwintering success. Annual releases are expected to to occur in the Park for at least the next three years in an effort to establish a healthy population. Results from the reintroduction and associated monitoring program will inform plans for a second introduction site in Norfolk County, as well as future actions to supplement remaining populations across its Canadian range.

The monitoring program is part of a larger collaborative research program lead by Dr. Ryan Norris at the University of Guelph, aimed at reversing the decline of mottled duskywing in Canada.

Development of captive rearing and reintroduction methods is considered essential to recovery efforts for mottled duskywing. Through the successful captive rearing efforts of Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, the Ontario Butterfly Species at Risk Recovery Team now has a reliable source of mottled duskywing for conservation action, with new insights into species behaviour and development which will inform on-the-ground recovery efforts. Reintroduction efforts are ready to begin, and a collaborative team of experts is in place to ensure success in the coming years.

This project marks the first ever butterfly reintroduction in Ontario.  Through captive rearing and release, we’re aiming to increase the size of the wild population to healthy, self-sustaining levels and to reintroduce this species to areas where it once thrived. Monitoring is an essential component of any reintroduction program, to evaluate our efforts, and adapt accordingly. Now remaining in only a few small pockets where other butterfly species have vanished, such as the Karner blue butterfly, this project will provide an example of how we can restore species into restored habitat and act as a model for butterfly conservation efforts across Canada. 

The Ontario Butterfly Species at Risk Team is comprised of a collaborative and multi-disciplinary group of individuals with representatives from academia, non-government organizations, federal & provincial government, the private sector, conservation authorities, and First Nations. WPC has been an active partner on the team, previously Karner Blue Ontario, since its inception in 2012.

Supported by:

  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Alliance Grant
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • The Rogers Foundation

Program Partners:

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