Butterfly shows trouble is waiting in the wings - Fewer than 100 Poweshiek skipperlings in Canada

For the past several winters, conservationist Cary Hamel has held his breath, hoping an endangered species of butterfly will emerge from cocoons in the summer. When the Poweshiek skipperling butterfly (Oarisma poweshiek) emerged again this year near Vita, Hamel was relieved, despite estimates that say there are fewer than 100 left in Canada. The small winged creature is orange and black, but not patterned in the eye-catching way of other butterflies. And that’s why people seem to care less about them, according to Hamel, the conservation science manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Manitoba region. "It’s not as showy and beautiful as some other endangered species, like monarch butterflies or polar bears," he said. But the role they play in the ecosystem is the same as other pollinators. The butterflies are essential to flower reproduction. In particular, the Poweshiek skipperling pollinates black-eyed susan flowers. "What we are most concerned about, in any ecosystem when you start to lose species, is what they call a cascading effect.... If you’re losing this species, you’ll probably be losing other species," said Richard Westwood, chairman of environmental studies and sciences at the University of Winnipeg. Researchers don’t fully understand why the species has declined, and Hamel says more research is needed on the rare insect. "The consequences of a disruption or disappearance of any (ecosystem’s) animals or plants, like the skipperling, can lead to changes that are impossible to fully understand until it’s too late to reverse," he said.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press, 07/20/2017