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Potluck: Endangered Buttterfly

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner and Mary Gottschalk

Going, Going . . .

Experts are watching for but are unfortunately not seeing many Poweshiek skipperling butterflies. Common in Iowa prairies as late as a decade ago, the little mothlike butterfly has virtually disappeared, prompting a proposal for its addition to the federal list of threatened or endangered species.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Poweshiek is of special concern because of its apparent disappearance from the majority of sites in the heart of its range in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regularly contracts with experts to track the butterfly during its normal June/July flight period. It was last spotted in Iowa in tallgrass prairies in Osceola and Cerro Gordo Counties during surveys between 2005 and 2009.

“There have been huge declines since the 1990s, but we don’t know if it’s gone,” says Daryl Howell of the DNR. If you go looking for the butterfly, Howell advises taking a digital camera to document sightings. But don’t try to catch one. Handling the butterfly requires a state permit. — C.B.

For more information on Iowa’s endangered species visit

Photo courtesy Jerry Selby. 


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