Dakota Skipper

The Dakota skipper is a skipper which lives on the prairies of the Dakotas and western Minnesota. Like all skippers, it has hooked antennae, flies with a strong, skipping characteristic flight, and has a fairly short, stout body and stubby wings. The females are darker than the males, being mostly dark brown with orange spots above and gray-brown below, while males are orange-brown above and yellow-brown below. The caterpillars are light brown, with a black collar and a dark brown head. This skipper is naturally fairly rare, being confined to specific habitats and host plants, and living in low population densities. This skipper feeds primarily on little bluestem grass as a caterpillar, though other hosts such as bluegrass, panic grass, needle stem grasses, and others are also potential hosts. The adult sips nectar from a variety of flowers, and has been observed to show a preference for purple coneflower. It lives only in tall-grass and mixed-grass prairies with alkaline soil. Adults emerge from mid-June through early July, and persist for about three weeks, during which time mating and egg-laying takes place. Eggs are laid on broad-leaved plants, and caterpillars must crawl down to the grasses on which they feed. Caterpillars live in silken tubes lined with grass leaves, feeding at night. Caterpillars overwinter underground in their fourth instar, finishing development in spring. Pupation occurs in June. The geographic range of Dakota skipper historically included Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. However, that range has decreased to only include western Minnesota, northeastern South Dakota, and the eastern half of North Dakota. Its range has also become more fragmented, leaving many small populations isolated from the remainder of the species. The Dakota skipper is declining because of habitat destruction. Farms, primarily growing hay for cattle, but also other crops and grains, are displacing the Dakota skipper's needed native grasses. Also, invasive plants are displacing the grasses on which the Dakota skipper caterpillars feed. This skipper is also highly susceptible to pesticide poisoning. Additional processes that destroy skipper habitat include fires, road construction, overgrazing, and mining. While this insect has little economic value besides its pollination services, it could be useful and worthwhile to preserve as an indicator species because of its sensitivity to environmental changes and habitat degradation. Also, by preserving this butterfly, areas of prairie would be kept in a fairly natural state which would be conducive to native species survival.

Bombus Affinis

Bombus affinis was a common bumble bee in the north eastern region of the United States. This species was the first bumble bee actively foraging in early spring and the last to cease foraging in the fall. The rusty patched bumble bee is a floral visitor of at least 65 genera of native and economically important plants (cranberry, plum, apple, alfalfa and onion among others). There is increasing evidence that populations of B. affinis have been severely declining during the last decade. The former distribution of this species was restricted to the east coast of North America from Quebec to Georgia and west to the Dakotas. Although this species is well represented in museum collections, it has recently disappeared from surveys in New York State and other regions where it was previously distributed (last report in 2003).

The disappearance of B. affinis is probably related to the decline of 3 other North American bumble bee species (B. terricola, B. franklini, B. occidentalis). All of these species and 2 of their social parasites (B. citrinus, B. ashtoni) appear to be in steep decline or even close to extinction. Among the main threats to these bumble bees are habitat reduction, pesticides, presence of invasive species, climate change, reduction of food supplies and loss of nesting sites and hibernating places. However, the major threat and apparently the main cause of the decline of bumble bee populations in the US is the introduction of exotic pathogens that arrived in North America through commercial colonies for greenhouse pollination of tomatoes. In 1992 and 1994, queens of B. impatiens and B. occidentalis were shipped to European rearing facilities for production of managed colonies for commercial pollination purposes. Apparently, when the colonies were sent back to the US, they brought a disease caused by the microsporidian Nosema bombi. This pathogen was first passed from managed to wild colonies of B. occidentalis and B. franklini in the west, and later on to wild populations of B. terricola and B. affinis in the east. Despite all of the above evidence, there are no bumble bees listed as endangered or threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife service. The Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation has started a conservation plan for B. affinis by hosting a website that allows for the posting of species sightings. B. affinis and other 57 bee species have been placed on the Xerces Red List of pollinators as vulnerable, imperiled or possibly extinct species. There is an urgent need for long-term monitoring for the preservation of native bee fauna.

Flightless Creeping Water Bugs

Members of the genus Ambrysus are commonly referred to as creeping water bugs.  The creeping water bugs are predaceous insects that live in aquatic ecosystems in the southwestern United States and the tropics. Amybrysus funebri lives in the Nevares-Tavertine Spring complex in Death Valley National Park in California. The spring to which A. funebris is endemic also supports many other invertebrate species, and therefore, that particular ecosystem has a fair amount of biodiversity.  A. funebris adults are typically found only in areas of intermediate flow, where the spring outflow is fast enough to remove silt but not fast enough to affect coarse gravel (Whiteman and Sites, 2007).

Currently, A. funebris is listed as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  The flightless creeping water bug is the rarest native invertebrate in the Death Valley National Park spring system with adults occurring in only one 100-yard stretch of Cow (Furnace) Creek according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey.  Currently, A. funebris is the only invertebrate being considered for protection in the Nevares-Tavertine Spring complex. The most serious threat facing the flightless creeping water bug comes from human disruption of the environment.  As it stands today, the water in Nevares-Tavertine Spring complex is diverted at eight different locations.  These diversions are provide a good source of potable water for both domestic and commercial uses according to Whiteman and Sites (2007). In addition to human perturbation, A. funebris faces threats from introduced fish in the Nevares-Tavertine Spring complex.

Currently, there are no formal efforts to conserve A. funebris, its habitat, or other similar aquatic species.  However, some biologists working on the insect consider it to be an umbrella species for other native aquatic insects living in the Nevares-Tavertine Spring complex.  Therefore, it makes good sense to conserve the species.  Additionally, Shepard argues that conserving natural spring systems, especially in deserts is always a good idea because they contain high amounts of unique biodiversity. 

Taylor's Checkerspot

Taylor's (Whulge) Checkerspot Butterfly, Euphydryas editha taylori, is a subspecies of Edith's Checkerspot; it is a medium-sized butterfly bearing an orange and cream checkered pattern.  Inhabiting grasslands from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, Taylor's Checkerspot historically had over 70 separate populations.  Although relatively recent studies showed Taylor's Checkerspot having as few as four populations, up-to-date sampling shows at least 13 populations.  Both the size and location of each population has been seen to shift from year to year making accurate sampling difficult.  These populations are also extremely small supporting no more than a few hundred individuals. 

There are many reasons why Taylor's Checkerspot populations have been sliding over the past 10 years.  There have been massive initiatives for commercial and residential development in its native grassland habitat.  Their habitat has almost evaporated as non-native plants such as Douglas fir, Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry have been encroaching, while succession from grasslands due to native shrubs, trees, and fire has been occurring.   The use of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) for Asian gypsy moth control in Pierce County, Washington has wiped out three populations, and continues to be a threat elsewhere.  Some existing populations have been seen to depend on a non-native weed called English plantain.  This dependence has been seen to lead to frequent local extinctions.  These threats occur simultaneously and affect most of the populations.

Taylor's Checkerspot became a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2001.  The US Fish and Wildlife service gave Taylor's Checkerspot an LPN of 3, which is based on a scale of 1 to 12 (1 being the highest priority).  This has been justified due to the recurring nature of threats placed on Taylor's Checkerspot.  Without habitat restoration and maintenance, this subspecies is very unlikely to persist.  Due to this reason, I believe it is a prime candidate to be listed as endangered.

Sequatchie Caddisfly

The Sequatchie caddisfly, Glyphopsyche sequatchie, is predominantly yellow insect with paler yellow “warts” covering its head, thorax, and abdomen.  G. sequatchie is only known to exist in two spring runs in Marion County, Tennessee.  The two springs, Owen Spring and Martin Spring, both emerge from caves and flow over a substrate of gravel.  Silt and organic matter are found in these streams’ slower, deeper pools; and there are few boulders present within these runs.  Owen Spring is roughly 12 meters wide and 0.5 meters deep; and Martin Spring is about double the size of Owen Spring.

Unfortunately, but sadly not surprisingly, the Sequatchie caddisfly faces a diverse array of threats.  The species’ very rarity puts it at a heightened risk for extirpation.  While Trichopterists have been encouraged to treat this particular species as though it were officially endangered, some caddisfly enthusiasts’ desire to add such a unique specimen to their collections has harmed the population and forced it to decline.  Additionally, the water quality of Owen Spring and Martin Spring is threatened.  Siltation, agricultural, municipal, industrial, and mining runoff have increasingly endangered these insects’ habitat.  Moreover, since both spring runs emerge from caves, both direct and subsurface water pollution is a serious threat for these organisms survival.  There has also been a problem with people driving their vehicles into the stream to change their oil.  Such actions have not only polluted the habitat with undesirable chemicals, but have also caused erosion and altered the composition of the streambed.

In January 2001, G. sequatchie officially became a listed candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has assigned the species a listing priority number of five. Such a classification designates a high magnitude threat that the species could go extinct, but that the immediacy of the problem is not dire.  Regardless, if G. sequatchie is going to exist into the future, it warrants official listing status as an endangered species. 

G. Sequatchie is endangered.  The insect’s tremendously limited distribution, small population size, and limited habitat make it extremely vulnerable to an untimely demise.  As discussed previously, there are only two known habitats where this caddisfly is found and they face numerous threats.  If something were to ever happen to the condition of these sites, the organism would be thrust into an extremely critical situation.  Thus, by granting the organism official status as an endangered species, improved protections would greatly reduce the danger that these insects are lost forever.

Stephan's Riffle Beetle

Stephan's Riffle Beetle, Heterelmis stephani, is endemic to two neighboring springs in the Santa Rita mountains in Madera Canyon, Arizona.  The extreme rarity of this species has led to its consideration for listing as an endangered species.  Other riffle beetles in the genus Heterelmis are found throughout Central and South America.  H. stephani and one other, H. comalensis, exist at the northern edge of the genus' range.  H. comalensis is endemic to Comal Springs in Texas in a similar situation as H. stephani in Arizona.  Despite the similarities in range and isolation, H. comalensis has been listed as an endangered species, and H. stephani has not.  Undoubtedly, this is due to higher levels of human traffic at Comal Springs compared to Madera Canyon.

H. stephani is a detritivore that lives in riffle areas of constantly-saturated streams fed by springs between 5,000-7,000 feet above sea level.  The elevation creates a temperate zone thick with vegetation where the surrounding lowlands are typically arid deserts.  This characteristic of their ecosystem contributes to their isolation.

The Endangered Species Act assigns candidates listing priority numbers (LPN) from 1-12, 1 being at highest risk of imminent extinction.  H. stephani currently have a listing priority number (LPN) of 8, meaning that they are somewhat of a low priority.  This is justified by their habitat being a part of Coronado National Forest, which is a federally managed wildlife habitat.  While Madera Canyon does receive numerous tourists- mostly of the birding variety- human impacts do not appear threatening enough to warrant a higher LPN.  In the past, the springs that fed their stream habitats were capped for human use, but this practice has declined greatly in recent years.  According to the estimates of the Fish and Wildlife Service (Fish and Wildlife Sevice 2002, 2003), changes in water chemistry due to fires and floods remain the gravest threats to the perpetuity of this species, and are seen as only nominally threatening to its survival.  At this time, it does not seem necessary for this species to be listed as endangered.

The Oceanic Hawaiian Damselfly, Megalagrion oceanicum

The Oceanic Hawaiian damselfly, Megalagrion oceanicum, is about two inches in both length and wingspan.  It is sexually dimorphic, with males being red and females green, though both sexes display prominent black patterns.  Naiads are large, with long legs and dagger-like gills.

The early life stages of this species occur in swift moving freshwater streams.  Eggs are laid in submerged aquatic vegetation and hatch in about ten days.  The naiads then mature over a period of up to four months, while preying on other aquatic insects and small fish.  Venturing out of the stream onto rocks or vegetation, the naiads molt into winged adult.  Adults are strong flyers and prey on small flying insects, such as midges.

The Oceanic Hawaiian damselfly is endemic to the island of Oahu and historically known from sixteen locations.  It is currently know to exist at only seven of these locations, with the total population estimated at only about one thousand individuals. 

This damselfly is threatened by three major factors: habitat destruction and modification, predation, and competition.

Modification of streams has contributed greatly to this damselfly’s decline.  These streams have been diverted for but irrigation and production of hydroelectric power, resulting in decreased stream flow.  They have also been channelized at some locations, resulting in increased stream velocity, loss of vegetation, and increased illumination and temperature.

Although Hawaii has only five native species of freshwater fish, over seventy exotic species have been introduced into its waters, many of which are thought to prey on damselfly naiads.  In fact, many other species of Hawaiian damselflies exist only where exotic freshwater fish have not yet established themselves.

Four non-native species of caddisfly have also been introduced into Hawaii as of 2001, and may compete with the damselfly naiads for space and resources.

In an effort to conserve these damselflies, in addition to five other Hawaiian damselfly species on the endangered species candidate list, translocation programs are underway, while approval of picicide use to kill exotic fish species is being sought.

Along with five other Hawaiian damselflies, the Oceanic Hawaiian damselfly has shown a limited population over a reduced range.  Conservation efforts seem feasible, and would act to save not just one, but six species.


Anaea troglodyta floridalis is a Nymphalid butterfly in the subfamily charaxinae. Referred to as leafwings, butterflies of this subfamily have angled, jagged wings, with rather drab undersides, which they use to camouflage with their environment. The Florida leafwing lives in the natural pineland habitats of southern Florida, where its host plant, Croton linearis, or pineland croton, can be found. Here, it feeds on dung, urine, rotting fruit, etc., and thus is typically not the stereotypical pollinator Lepidopteran. Eggs are laid singly on foliage

of the pineland croton, and larvae develop in leaf rolls, which they construct from silk and leaves. Chrysalids, like the adults, are cryptically colored.

The Florida leafwing, however, is declining in numbers. It is, in fact, considered to be critically imperiled globally according to the NatureServe conservation ranking system. The reasons for this decline may be attributed to mainly habitat destruction and pesticide spraying for mosquito control. Variable weather patterns and increasingly harsh storms may be other stochastic factors contributing to the decline of this subspecies.

The natural pineland habitat, specifically the Everglades, in which floridalis resides, has declined for a number of reasons. These include the conversion of land for agriculture, urban or rural development, industrial development and recreation, road building, resource extraction, and manipulation of the water levels and the hydrologic cycle (for reasons of controlling flooding, development, and controlling mosquitoes). Another factor contributing to decline of habitat is the purposeful alteration of the natural fire cycles that periodically refresh the growth of the pine canopy in the Everglades and pinelands. Interfering with fire cycles contributes to a growth in other hardwood species, which compete for light and space with pine dominance, and ultimately may change the ecology of an entire ecosystem. Yet another factor to habitat decline is the growth in the number of invasive flora and fauna.

This habitat decline has serious implications for species richness, species number, and the chemistry of this environment. The loss of floridalis is one result. As the habitat declines, so too, will the subspecies. Consequently, many other creatures in this type of environment from all walks of life including birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and plants, are suffering as well (such as the Florida panther, night-scented orchid, Schaus swallowtail, Atala hairstreak, Birtram’s hairstreak, etc.).

There is no apparent formal conservation initiative that has been set forward for this butterfly; however, some sort of conservation is needed. The Florida leafwing is an indicator of the unhealthiness of the Everglade environment, and for that reason something needs to be done to conserve that unique habitat for all the organisms that make up its ecosystem.

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle (Cicindela albissima)

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes (CPSD) tiger beetle is found only in the CPSD geologic formation in Kane County in southern Utah. C. albissima was first described by Normal Rumpp from specimens from the CPSD and was initially named as a subspecies, Cicindela limbata albissima. Recent analysis of mtDNA found that C. albissima is genetically distinct from the other C. limbata  subspecies and warrants full species status (Morgan et al 2000).  The U.S. Federal Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists the CPSD tiger beetle as its own species (USFWS 2007).

            The CPSD tiger beetle has a two-year life cycle and its adult population size is directly related to the past two years’ rainfall. From 1999 to 2006, the adult population size of ranged from 558 to 2,944 individuals (USFWS 2007). Adult beetles are 11 to 15mm in size and have distinct white elytra, possibly a thermoregulatory adaptation for life in a desert environment (Romey and Knisley 2002).

C. albissima’s primary habitat is in and near interdunal swales.  Interdunal swales are low-lying wetland areas between sand dunes typically dominated by herbaceous flora. The beetles do not occur in every swale, instead over 90% of the beetle’s population is found in an area of approximately 1,800 by 400m  (species listing form). Interdunal swales provide a cool, moist environment that is desirable for larval development. The larvae are sit-and-wait predators, living in tunnels in and near these swales, from which they capture other insects (Romey and Knisley 2002). C. albissima is found in swales that also are habitat for Asclepias welshii (Welsh’s milkweed), a federally protected threatened plant species (USFWS 2007).

             The greatest threat to the CPSD tiger beetle is off highway vehicle (OHV) use. The beetle’s primary habitat is in Utah’s CPSD State Park (estimated at >90% of the species’ population) and a small portion of the beetles are found at another site in the CPSD owned by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). OHVs are a serious threat to the CPSD tiger beetle because beetles are killed and damaged by run-overs and, maybe more importantly, OHVs destroy interdunal swales (Knisley and Hill 2001). Two-hundred and seven acres out of 2,000 acres of the CPSD State Park are closed to OHV use to provide protection for the beetles. An additional 370  acres are closed to OHVs in a second conservation area on BLM land. These restrictions are actively enforced. However, the CPSD sustained significant habitat destruction when the park was opened to OHV use in 1963 and conservation areas were not established until 1997 (USFWS 2007).


C. albissima’s listing candidacy was most recently reviewed in 2007. The CPSD tiger beetle holds a listing priority number (LPN) of eight. This means that the USFWS believes the threats are imminent and of moderate magnitude and the beetle will continue as a candidate species (USFWS). The CPSD tiger beetle has great potential to be a flagship species for dune habitats. With all of the conservation efforts already in place would be an easy addition to the ESA and would benefit from the publicity.


Nysius Wekiuicola

            Nysius wekiuicola, commonly known as the wekiu bug, is a species of hemipteran seed bug endemic to Hawaii. It was first discovered in the Pu’u Wekiu region on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano by a group of biologists searching for arthropod life underneath cinder rubble. Its name is derived from the Hawaii word for high summit – wekiu.

            The adults are less than quarter inch long, and have black thoraxes and dark brown abdomens. Like all hemiterans, the young display wingpads while the adults have highly reduced wings, which are not used in its highly windy habitat. Both the larvae and adults are known to be active even during winters, even when temperatures are as low as 19 F. These insects overcome the extreme conditions with an anti-freeze substance in their hemolymph, which prevents the crystallization of water within their body. The adults emerge when the sun is out, and their dark bodies also allow them to absorb sunlight to maintain adequate body heat.

            Unlike their seed-feeding relatives in the Lygaedae family, wekiu bugs are scavengers that feed on the carcasses of insects that are carried up to the summit by winds. They have a specialized straw-like stylet mouthpart that allows them to bore through the partially frozen insects and suck out the hemolymph. Due to their dependence on the summit gales for food, they are known as aeolian or wind dependent organisms.

            The populations of wekiu bugs are only found scattered throughout the various cinder cones in the Mauna Kea, ranging from elevations of 11,000ft to over 13,000ft. The landscape of the summit consists of mostly bare rock or alpine deserts, with heavy snowfalls from the months of November through March. They most like inhibit the rim regions of the cinder cones, where the ground substrate is primarily cinder and volcanic spatter.

            Past population surveys have found the insect to be relatively abundant in the various cinder cone regions. A 1982 survey found over 12,000 individuals within the tri-cone complex. More recent surveys indicate decline numbers, while a 2001 survey yielded 473 individuals on the Pu’u Kea cone, which originally had the highest population concentration, similar surveys conducted in the same region in 2004 revealed 0 individuals.

            As one of the world’s tallest summits that rises above 40% of the world’s atmosphere and 90% of the earth’s water vapor, Mauna Kea is one of the world’s best astronomy sites. The presence and ongoing constructions of telescope complexes and their accompanying facilities pose as one of the biggest threats to the wekiu bug populations. The amount of bulldozing required for level surfaces to build these complexes upon heavily modifies the specific substrate habitat and cinder cone rims for the wekiu bug. Addition pollution comes from chemicals and runoffs created through the maintenance of these telescopes, while construction of roads and transportation to these sites further degrades their habitat. Recently it has been noted that increasing levels of invasive species brought in by the high levels of human traffic as a result of astronomy studies, tourism, and recreation poses as another threat to the native population. There have already been several invasive species of beetles and spiders identified that competes directly with the wekiu bug for food and other resources.

            Currently the majority of the wekiu bug’s habitat falls within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, which is run by the University of Hawaii - Institute of Astronomy. The current management plan for the MKSR limits the number of telescopes to 13, yet the development of supplemental facilities and the renewal of many older telescope complexes do not constitute the establishment of new telescopes. Hawaii state regulations do not include the wekiu because it has not been listed as threatened or endangered, and as of yet no active efforts have been made by the state to list the species.

Since the discovery of the wekiu bug, the US Fish and Wildlife Services have refused to participate in the planning and construction of telescopes in the MKSR, but have not taken any direct approaches towards combating the land use in this area by astronomy institutes. The summit also lies within a state conservation district; hence any construction in the area requires a permit from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The petition to list species as endangered was submitted in 2003 with no results as of yet. The pending construction projects will continue to threaten the highly sensitive habitat of this species unless it becomes listed.