I have done a little work on the conservation of butterflies, and I think there are three areas that need to be worked on. I call those areas “horizons.”
The first horizon is the conservation of rare butterflies. Rare butterflies are usually habitat-specific. For some reason that we may or may not understand, these butterflies are in trouble. The Poweshiek skipper is one example–it seems to thrive only in high quality prairies and has suddenly disappeared from many of them. Another example is the baltimore checkerspot, which need its caterpillar hostplant, turtlehead, to survive. Turtlehead only lives in the rare and endangered fen habitat.
The second horizon is saving the common butterflies. We modify the habitats where butterflies and other wildlife lives. We drain water off of surfaces through underground storm sewers, we replace native vegetation with invasive weeds or turf grass, we cover large surfaces with cement. All of our activities are incremental and we don’t even notice that we are doing them. How many butterflies are found in our cities now–ten percent of what once were? One percent? Less than that? And how many do our pesticide applications kill?
There are things we can do to protect the common butterflies, but we need to work on it.
The common wood-nymph can be found in large numbers in habitats where they are allowed to grow.
The last horizon in butterfly conservation has to do with the behavior of people. Butterflies may be there but they have no place in our lives. The third horizon is the separation of people from butterflies.