I attended a conference last weekend on the conservation of tallgrass prairie lepidoptera. I was totally impressed with the turnout and professionalism of the people involved. The attendance was about 60 people, most of them very intelligent and motivated professionals. Much of the focus was on Oarisma poweshiek, the butterfly that this blog is (sort of) about. I have tried to photograph it, unsuccessfully, for many years.
I finally got my photos, but not of the adult.
Erik Runquist at the Minnesota Zoo has started a captive breeding program with the butterfly, and has these caterpillars–the third instar, which is the overwintering stage.
Here is the habitat of this captive butterfly (from Erik’s refrigerator):
Another group is spending the winter outside under the snow.
The caterpillar has been observed in the wild only a few times, and then only by a very few people. Keeping a captive population of the butterfly is primarily to learn more about the habits, behavior, and life cycle. Reintroduction into the wild is not even in the planning stage at this time.
Abstracts for the talks that were given can be found here.
Oarisma poweshiek still seems to be in very precarious shape in the wild. However, I am encouraged that there is a coordinated, international attempt to save the species.