By John Turk, Andrew Kidd
Conservation Scientist Dave Cuthrell fears nearly 10 years he spent studying a nearly endangered butterfly no bigger than a quarter may be coming to a close.
“They’re beautiful little guys that are an important part of the ecosystem,” said Cuthrell of the Poweshiek skipperling butterfly. “But there’s been a really marked population decline in Michigan — only in the last three years ... (and) to be honest, we don’t know why.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting an informational meeting Wednesday night in Holly Township for those with questions about a recent federal proposal to protect two butterflies under the Endangered Species Act. The meeting will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Rose Pioneer Elementary School located at 7110 Milford Rd.
The Poweshiek skipperling, which has been seen darting from flower to flower in Holly, is on the brink of becoming an endangered species with a critical habitat. While there are several theories on why the creature’s population is dwindling — habitat loss and destruction, disease organisms, pesticides and more — Cuthrell, entomologist for Michigan State University Extension in Lansing, said those in the conservation realm can’t come to a consensus.
The small, dark brown and light orange butterfly with a 1-inch wing span used to be prevalent in Michigan and seven other states — as well as Canada — before habitat decline led to the species’ scarcity.
Now, Michigan holds the world’s largest population of the insect — but that’s not saying much, said conservationist Cuthrell. More....