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Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies

David G. James, David Nunnallee

Publication Year: 2011

David G. James and David Nunnallee present the life histories of the entire butterfly fauna of a geographic region in exceptional and riveting detail for the first time in North America in Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies.

Virtually all of the 158 butterfly species occurring in southern British Columbia, Washington, northern Idaho, and northern Oregon are included in the book. Color photographs of each stage of life—egg, every larval instar, pupa, adult—accompany information on the biology, ecology, and rearing of each species.

Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies will appeal to naturalists, hikers, amateur entomologists, butterfly gardeners, conservationists, students, and general readers of natural history. For scientists and dedicated lepidopterists, the book provides an unparalleled resource on the natural history of immature stages of butterflies in the Pacific Northwest—and beyond, as many of Cascadia’s butterflies occur in other parts of North America as well as Europe and Asia.

Published by: Oregon State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. 8-10

When I set out to encounter as many species of U.S. butterflies as I could in the calendar year 2008 for a book called Mariposa Road, I made the decision right up front to count caterpillars—and eggs, and chrysalides— as well as adults, as long as their specific identity was unequivocal. Some saw this as a liberty: “I thought you were counting butterflies?”...

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pp. 11-13

This book is the fulfillment of the authors’ long-time dream to document all the life stages of all the butterflies of a significant geographic region, that of Cascadia. For David James the dream of comprehensively documenting butterfly life histories extends back to the 1960s in England, when he first began rearing butterflies—at the age of 8!
We define Cascadia for the purposes of this book as...

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The Life History of a Butterfly

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pp. 13-18

In this, the twenty-first century, the life history of a butterfly features in the curricula of most preschool and nearly all elementary school students. Today’s children often know more about the fantastic metamorphosis through which butterflies pass than their parents do. Today, many 5-year-olds experience firsthand in the classroom the thrill and excitement of rearing their own “pet” caterpillar, thanks to companies...

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Life Strategies

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pp. 18-23

Despite their fragile appearance and sometimes ephemeral existence, butterflies are tough, seasoned survivors. Every delicate butterfly flitting over a flowery meadow is the survivor of millions of generations of resilient ancestors that endured, outsmarted, or avoided drought, disease, predators, parasitoids, competitors, storms, volcanoes, and even ice ages...

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Overwintering, Oversummering, and Diapause

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pp. 23-28

Butterflies and their immature stages, like all insects, are cold blooded and depend on environmental conditions to achieve body temperatures necessary for activity, development, and reproduction. The optimal range of body temperatures for most butterflies and their immature stages lies between 15 and 30 °C. Arctic-alpine species have lower...

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Natural Enemies

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pp. 28-34

The immature stages of butterflies are prey to an enormous variety of natural enemies. The umbrella term “natural enemies” includes vertebrate and invertebrate predators, parasitoids, and diseases (pathogens). Some natural enemies are “generalists,” feeding on a wide range of food that may include immature stages of butterflies. Some are “specialists,” specializing on a certain stage...

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pp. 34-41

From every 100 eggs laid by a female butterfly, only a very small number, perhaps 1–5, will survive to become an adult. Biotic (natural enemies) and abiotic (mostly climatic) factors combine to ruthlessly decimate populations of eggs, larvae, and pupae. To maintain a stable population, each mated pair of butterflies needs to produce only two progeny, even though the female may lay 50–2,000 eggs...

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pp. 41-44

People do not all look alike, nor do all dogs nor all butterflies, even though they may be classified as belonging to a single species. Variation has puzzled and challenged lepidopterists since the beginnings of the science. We humans prefer to classify organisms into neat, predictable boxes we can recognize and understand; however, butterflies care nothing for our predictable boxes, our names, or our classification schemes;...

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Butterfly Habitats in Cascadia

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pp. 44-49

Robert M. Pyle in his authoritative The Butterflies of Cascadia usefully defines the biogeographic region of Cascadia, and we encourage readers to refer to this account. Pyle selected a “conservative” definition of Cascadia for his book that comprises all of Washington and Oregon, the bordering sections of British Columbia, western Idaho, and northernmost California and Nevada. Our definition is similar except that we do not include the southern half of Oregon. ...

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pp. 49-53

Finding butterfly eggs, larvae, or pupae in the wild can be exciting, enjoyable, and uniquely rewarding. Poets, historians, and scientists have written for centuries of the pleasure and fulfillment of watching butterflies glide and flit among wildflowers in beautiful summer meadows; we believe that the discovery and study of their immature stages takes us a step deeper into the appreciation of these interesting and beautiful insects. ...

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Rearing Techniques

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pp. 53-57

For a field lepidopterist with unlimited time and energy, the ultimate challenge would be to find every stage of a butterfly in nature; however, for most of us, the only realistic way to observe all the life history stages of a butterfly is through captive rearing. In nature a variety of factors trigger and control development, and many of these factors are unknown or “invisible” to humans. ...

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Photographic Techniques

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pp. 58-59

Documenting the immature stages of butterflies can be done by killing and preserving them in a liquid preservative such as alcohol, or by photography. There are pros and cons to each method. Preserved specimens in glass tubes and flasks are bulky and need to be maintained, and specimens tend to lose their natural colors; however, the finest structural details are preserved for later study. Larvae must be killed...

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How to Use This Book

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pp. 59-61

The Latin names used for butterflies in this book follow Pelham (2008), with the exception of the greater fritillaries, for which we have elected to use the Old World genus Argynnis, reducing Speyeria to the level of subgenus in accordance with Simonsen (2006) and Simonsen et al. (2006). Our English names for butterflies generally follow the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) checklist, ...


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pp. 62-67

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Parnassians and Swallowtails

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pp. 68-85

The large and colorful swallowtails are among our best-known butterflies and found throughout the world. In Cascadia we have 7 species of swallowtails and 2 parnassians. Three Tiger swallowtails and the Old World and Anise swallowtails are widely distributed and common in Cascadia and have a high public profile. Their larvae are also well known and are often found by children in late summer when larvae wander, seeking...

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Whites and Sulphurs

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pp. 86-123

The family Pieridae includes the whites, marbles, orangetips, and sulphurs and is represented by 18 species in Cascadia. Butterflies in this family generally have white or yellow wings dorsally, some with black, green, or orange markings.
Females lay single spindle-shaped eggs on the buds, flowers, or leaves of their hosts. The Pine White is an exception, laying rows of eggs on conifer needles. Eggs are typically pale blue or green maturing to orange, with the head of the larva...

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pp. 124-139

There are 7 copper species in Cascadia. Adults are dimorphic, with males coppery or blue dorsally and the females brown or gray. Flight periods are typically brief, and all species except the Purplish Copper (which is multibrooded) have a single annual generation. Coppers are sedentary, rarely moving far, and occupy habitats from the lowlands to alpine summits. Some require habitats with permanent moisture so are often found near watercourses and ponds. ...

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pp. 140-181

There are 18 species of hairstreaks in Cascadia. Hairstreaks are named for the tail-like extensions on the wings of some species; however, the majority of ours lack tails. The Satyrium hairstreaks are handsome and nectar lavishly on milkweeds and buckwheats. The genus Callophrys includes our only 3 green butterflies, while the remaining species are brown, handsomely marked with white lines and sometimes red or orange spots. ...

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Blues and Metalmark

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pp. 182-227

There are 19 species of blues in Cascadia. Males are typically blue dorsally, whereas females are usually brown. About half our blues fly in a single annual generation whereas the rest have 2 broods, at least on occasion. The blues have adapted to many habitats, from hot prairies to alpine summits and most environments in between. Blues are often abundant and can be seen in large mixed-species mudding parties that may number hundreds at a single site. ...

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pp. 228-265

Sixteen species of fritillaries occur in Cascadia, including 9 greater fritillaries (Argynnis), 6 lesser fritillaries (Boloria), and Euptoieta claudia. All fritillaries are orange dorsally with complex markings of black lines and spots. Ventrally, greater fritillaries bear large oval spots (silvered or not) on the hindwings, and lesser fritillaries have violet- or rust-tinted hindwings with white or yellow non-oval spots or markings, ...

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Checkerspots and Crescents

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pp. 266-287

Checkerspots and crescents are represented in Cascadia by 10 species in 3 genera. They are medium-sized orange and black butterflies found in habitats ranging from low shrub-steppe and coastal lowlands to alpine meadows. Males and females are similar in most species, and males eclose a week or so before females. Some species are widespread and can be abundant (Euphydryas spp.) while others are uncommon

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Other Brushfoots, Admirals, and Monarch

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pp. 288-323

This section, a composite of three subfamilies, includes 17 of our best known and most colorful larger butterflies, the admirals, ladies, commas, tortoiseshells, and Monarch. Adults are robust, strong fliers, long lived (up to 10 months), and often strikingly patterned. Some are common, but most are rarely abundant. Painted Ladies and California Tortoiseshells are exceptions, occurring in vast numbers when migration from...

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pp. 324-341

There are 9 species of satyrs or “browns” in Cascadia. The sedentary adults are typically brown, tawny, gray, or dull orange, most with fine striations and eyespots on the wings. The wings have swollen veins at the bases which contain auditory sensors. Satyrs occupy a wide range of habitats from grassy lowlands and shrub-steppe to arctic-alpine tundra. All species develop...

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Spreadwing Skippers

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pp. 342-365

There are 11 spreadwing skippers in Cascadia. Colored in grays, browns, and blacks and often checkered or marked with white or yellow, many are mothlike, particularly the duskywings. Most rest with their wings outspread and flat, giving them their popular name. A wide range of habitats are occupied, from disturbed lowland sites to alpine tundra. About half are widespread and common, the remainder more localized. ...

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Monocot (Grass) Skippers

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pp. 366-403

Seventeen species of grass skippers occur in Cascadia. We add Carterocephalus palaemon to this group because of its use of grasses; it is the sole representative of the subfamily Heteropterinae in Cascadia. The grass skippers are named for their larval hosts, grasses or sedges. Grass skippers rest in 2 characteristic poses, with their wings directly over the back, or held in 2 planes, ...


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pp. 404-408


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pp. 409-418

Photo Credits and Data

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pp. 419-429

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pp. 430-431

A book of this scope necessarily draws on a host of people for technical assistance, advice, and information as well as for the less tangible but equally important inspiration, energy, and encouragement. First and foremost, this book would not have happened had it not been for the considerable assistance of Jonathan Pelham. Throughout the years of this work we drew heavily and frequently on Jon’s amazing knowledge of...


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pp. 432-446

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716485
E-ISBN-10: 0870716484
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716263
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716263

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Butterflies -- Northwest, Pacific -- Pictorial works.
  • Butterflies -- Washington (State).
  • Butterflies -- Northwest, Pacific.
  • Butterflies -- Washington (State) -- Pictorial works.
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