Butterfly Discovery at Sand Creek Massacre NHS

Regal Fritillary at SAND

A regal fritillary feeds on nectar from a showy milkweed plant. NPS photo from Danette Ulloa.

This regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia) marks yet another unique visitor to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. The National Park Service noted its outstanding colors and photographed it in Colorado’s Kiowa County for the first time.

Unfortunately, regal fritillaries continue to decline in number and area. As in the picture, milkweed can draw this species to areas like Sand Creek, but these butterflies suffer from land loss and degradation across most of its habitat. In particular, eastern populations of prairie butterflies continue to dwindle as land use changes and as a possible impact of climate change.

Regal fritillaries contribute pollination to farmers and agriculture across a wide swath of America, despite the loss of over 30% of their historic habitat. Alongside other pollinators, they form one-half of the essential pollinator-pollenizer symbiotic relationship. The decline of these butterflies warns of dangerous changes on Earth.

For instance, of thirty-three states in its historic range, seven report complete extirpation, while ten more note possible local extinction. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this butterfly is in Vulnerable condition. WildEarth Guardians, a nature conservancy group, petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to elevate the species to Endangered or Threatened status in 2013.

At Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, we hope to continue seeing regal fritillaries, monarch butterflies, digger bees, and other pollinators at the site and across our high prairie landscapes.

For more information on the regal fritillary, see Gerald Silby’s USDA assessment of the species.

Filed Under: communityProwers CountyTourism


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