Feature Creature: Mormon Metalmarks

It's that time of year again- the time of year when the endangered Mormon Metalmark butterfly can be seen in flight (mid August-mid September) along eroded rocky slopes and nectaring on snow buckwheat throughout the Similkameen.

A few years ago, Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship staff were on a property well outside of this metalmark's then-known range and we found a few of these friendly butterflies, which prompted biologists to start looking where we had not looked before leading to more discoveries of Mormon Metalmarks along the rocky slopes throughout the valley.

What do they look like?

Mormon Metalmarks are medium-sized, conspicuous, butterflies with a wingspan of 25-35mm (a little over an inch).  They are mostly black with rusty patches on their dorsal wings and white spots over all wings.  They are not timid, like many butterflies, and care often found working on their suntan, basking atop of a snowbuckwheat plant.

Where do they live?

Metalmarks live on hillsides, eroding slopes where there are gravelly soils, rabbitbrush and snow buckwheat.  Snow Buckwheat plants are required by larvae for feeding and it is thought that snow buckwheat leaf litter is used when hibernating.  

Why are they at risk?

Human alteration of the landscape is the most significant threat to Mormon Metalmarks. Construction, maintenance, irrigation and noxious weeds such as Knapweed all reduce habitat quality and quantity.  Pesticides and irrigation used in agricultural practices are also a threat to Mormon Metalmark populations.

What can you do to assist in the recovery of Mormon Metalmarks?

  • Avoid use of insecticides which may drift and harm non-target invertebrates.
  • Avoid irrigating Mormon Metalmark habitats (rocky slopes and embankments with rabbitbrush and snowbuckwheat.
  • Contact Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship if you live in the Keremeos and Cawston area and have rocky slopes where rabbitbrush and snowbuckwheat and/or you have seen Mormon Metalmarks on your property- we can offer a survey and assessment as well as more information on these rare butterflies.
  • Become a Wildlife Habitat Steward and conserve talus slopes and hillsides on your property.