Introducing the Butterfly Habitat Network

Continent-wide Butterfly Habitat Network Launched


(A map of the National Butterfly Center and sample satellite regional locations. Click on each to learn more, with a larger explanation below.)

The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) is launching the Butterfly Habitat Network (BHN); a new, continent-wide conservation initiative and would love to have your help. Using decades of accumulated knowledge from butterfly count data, natural history investigations, our residential gardening program and regional activities accomplished by the National Butterfly Center and more; NABA is scaling-up efforts to protect, enhance and create habitat specifically for butterflies. We intend to inform work on the landscape level that will benefit not only butterflies but other pollinators and entire accompanying suites of species dependent on the ecosystems where butterflies exist. Butterflies are important pollinators of native plants and represent (as caterpillars) a major food resource for birds. Habitats critical to butterflies are essential to nesting waterfowl, neotropical migratory birds, upland game birds and more. To recover imperiled species of butterflies and keep common species common are our goals. By establishing core reserves in sensitive, often declining, vegetative types, NABA can provide stewardship activities on-the-ground on properties whose management is controlled by biologists dedicated to preservation of butterflies. These core areas will be the critical space needed for population maintenance, as part of a network of public and private working lands managed by NABA and partners, that expands the acreage available to butterflies through Farm Bill incentives and other programs. The mosaic of land conservation strategies is designed to promote biodiversity while fostering sustainability of agricultural operations. Sites for acquisition, easements or habitat augmentation will be selected in reference to their butterfly value, proximity to other suitable habitat and likelihood of long term success.

Why is this important? For many understandable reasons such as competing stakeholder interests, shifting management priorities, decreases in staff/budget and the like; state/federal agencies and more broadly defined non-governmental organizations do not manage solely for butterflies. Often, specific prescriptions are needed to create and maintain quality habitat for butterfly reproduction and overwintering. NABA proposes continuing our efforts to influence management of land with butterflies in mind but believes the time has come as an organization to ramp up activities related to developing a series of butterfly reserves, larger-scale habitat projects and transition into managing populations of butterflies.

The NABA Board of Directors and staff have selected representative projects across the diverse geographic areas of North America as a starting point of the BHN. There are rapidly declining prairie butterflies due to native grassland conversion, diminished populations of butterflies in extreme Southern Florida due to development, problems with transitional habitats maturing beyond their usefulness to rare butterflies in New Jersey, a host of opportunities for dozens of species in Texas and pesticide-impacted species across the continent that require non-treated parcels to recolonize. There are many more areas in need of preservation. You are able to decide which specific project or projects matters the most to you while retaining the ability to allow NABA to apply funding where it is needed most.

Building on our years of work at the local level, your participation is critical to increasing the continent’s populations of butterflies. If we can save butterflies, we can save ourselves ® is more than just a slogan – it is the understanding that adequate, well-cared for space for the wild others of this planet will ensure survival and quality of life for human beings.


Here are our sample regional network locations. Actual sites will be determined over the course of the campaign.

Southern California/Hermes Copper: Wildfires have destroyed critical habitat sites for this species which has yet to receive endangered status. At the same time, although prescribed fire can be a useful management tool, in some situations it is detrimental – especially as the range of a species is drastically reduced.

Klotz’s Bog – New Jersey/Georgia Satyr, Two-spotted Skipper, & Bog Copper: This site is about the marching of succession. The vegetation here is maturing beyond the usefulness to the rare Georgia Satyr, Two-spotted Skipper, and Bog Copper, and this site requires management to provide the growth of a more immature biome.

Prairie/Poweshiek Skipperling, Dakota Skipper, Otoe Skipper, Regal Fritillary, and ‘Pawnee’ Leonard’s Skipper: The preservation of tall grass prairie ecosystems is crucial to the endangered Poweshiek Skipperling and threatened Dakota Skipper, Otoe Skipper, Regal Fritillary, and ‘Pawnee’ Leonard’s Skipper as their habitats have been degraded by development. The grasses and forbs critical for the life history of these butterflies are controlled with widespread glyphosate and other herbicide use. Systemic and topical pesticides employed to control true insect pests are adversely impacting whole assemblages of native organisms. Extirpation of large mammals, namely bison and elk have removed major drivers of ecological function from the landscape. Butterflies are the canary in the coal mine for landscape-level impacts to the ecosystem. As these butterflies go, so go other wildlife.

South Florida/Miami Blue, Schaus’ Swallowtail, Florida Leafing, and Bertram’s Scrub-Hairstreak: We are seeking to re-establish the Miami Blue and support the Schaus’ Swallowtail, Florida Leafing, and Bertram’s Scrub-Hairstreak. Housing and commercial development has been obliterating these species’ habitat. Mismanagement led to the death of the captive population and destruction of the butterflies’ host plant on state land.

National Butterfly Center – Mission, Texas: Help us maintain the gardens at the National Butterfly Center. The gardens at the National Butterfly Center are a magnet for, and home to, literally thousands of butterflies. We have created these spectacular gardens using plants native to south Texas and northern Mexico. In fact, we believe that the gardens at the National Butterfly Center are the largest gardens in the United States that showcase regionally native plants in a formal garden arrangement.
Since planting these demonstration gardens, almost 200 kinds of butterflies have been seen at the National Butterfly Center, and many thousands of adults and school children have come to the Center to see and learn about native butterflies.

South Texas/Manfreda Giant-Skipper: We seek to re-establish this species, which hasn’t been seen in the US, north of the border, since the 1980’s. This means creating more habitat containing the Manfreda, this butterflies’ caterpillar food plant.

Central Mexico/Monarch: Human activity threatens the crucial overwintering sites for Monarchs in Central Mexico. Locations protected from mining and logging activities are required to maintain these as viable habitats during this part of the Monarch’s migration.

The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) is a 501 c(3) non-profit entity headquartered in Morristown, NJ. The organization’s largest project is the National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX. Through an active Chapter system and engaged membership, NABA works locally to promote on-the-ground conservation work and institutes policy initiatives to further its mission. For more information visit Connect with us on social media @NABAButterfly.