Oregon Silverspot Butterfly

Spotting the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly


A butterfly tangles from a thistle gathering nectar.
The size of this comma: , .

That is the size of a newly hatched Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speyeria zerene hippolyta) caterpillar. And as you can imagine, finding this little caterpillar in the wild would be next to impossible – the ultimate little brown needle in a giant meadow haystack. However, if we could find them, then a door will be opened to a knowledge and understanding of threatened butterfly species and prairie habitats. A conservation team comprise of federal, university, state, non-profit and private partners, is making headway in developing a method in which we can consistently find wild caterpillars and tracking captive-reared and released individuals to enlighten the research and conservation community. 

The team’s goal is to better understand Oregon silverspot population dynamics and the limiting factors of survival within adaptively managed habitat. As land partners test new habitat treatments, researchers from Washington State University, Vancouver, Pacific University, and Rogue Detection Teams will address ovipositing (egg laying) selection, overwinter caterpillar survival, survival from caterpillar to adult, and plant community responses. The team will implement techniques such as canine detection teams to sniff out wild caterpillar in locations where females were witnessed laying eggs, and zoo captive-reared and released caterpillars in tent enclosures to track survival to adulthood. At the end of the intensive study, developed population models will assess what combination of treatments might maximize population growth rate and prairie health – a new and unique model that can be used world-wide as a template for other butterflies in other habitats.

Stay tuned into our program for exciting developments!

Small mesh transparent tents for butterfly larval release dot a hillside above the ocean.

Larval release tents in known habitat south of Yachats, Oregon. These tents are used in a 4-year study on the effectiveness of habitat management.

A woman bends low to the ground with a pair of tweezers and looks at plants under a mesh tent..

Dr. Erica Henry releasing Oregon Silverspot caterpillars to study their survival potential under different habitat parameters.

Two people with their dog in a hillside meadow.

Rogue Detection Teams research trained pup, Pips, searching for wild Oregon Silverspot larvae.

A hand holds a butterfly that has a number printed on its wings.

Oregon Silverspot marked with a unique identifier. This project has been ESA permitted to track adult dispersal and habitat use over the adult flight period.

An id card for the Oregon Silverspot Butterfly. It is a closeup view of the butterfly pointing out the marking on its wings.
A medium-sized, orange butterfly known for its bright metallic silver spots on the ventral hindwing disc and marginal band. It has black spots on the dorsal wing surface and ventral forewing disc area and a cream to yellowish submarginal band. The dorsal wing surface has a black marginal band with orange spots. Forewing length approx. 1 inch.

Download full species identification card (pdf)

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