The Effects of Organic Fertilizers on the Development of Two Surrogate Species Used for the Propagation of the Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly
Trosin, Ronald L. III
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The Mitchell’s satyr (Neonympha mitchelli mitchelli) is an endangered species of butterfly indigenous to the wetland fens of southwest Michigan and northern Indiana. Habitat loss through climate change and land development has contributed to this species’ decline over the last thirty years. Propagation efforts seek to maximize the success and efficiency of introducing more of these butterflies into the wild. Maintaining appropriate growth rates during these efforts is essential to ensure that released specimens grow at the same rate as their wild counterparts so they reach sexual maturity at similar times and continue to mate. Currently it is not well understood how the Mitchell’s satyr grows under fertilized conditions, which it often comes into contact with given its fen environment. To test how fertilizers applied to host plants affect the growth rates of the satyr, two surrogate species were used; the Eyed brown (Satyrodes eurydice) and Appalachian brown (Satyrodes appalachia). These test species were reared in a greenhouse enclosure on potted plants that were unfertilized or fertilized with 2.5mL of an organic fertilizer treatment. Development and survival of eggs and caterpillars were measured twice weekly. Through this study it was concluded that plant fertilization has no effect on the development of caterpillars, or on the survival rates of eggs and larvae. To strengthen the veracity of these results, similar experiments should be done using a larger number of test pots and subjects, and also broadening the spectrum of how fertilizers are applied. These results should be considered in future propagation efforts of the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, and should also be used to expand our thinking on how fertilizers may or may not impact wetlands and their wildlife.