From 1991 until 2003, a variety of Volunteers (Will Kerling, Chris Tonkinson, Graig Odegard and Byron Weber) surveyed the Refuge for butterflies. Thanks to their efforts the Refuge has a pretty good idea of what species are here or could be here. Will Kerling said it best in a 2003 note to then Refuge Manager Dave Gillund: "Fifty butterfly species (list here) are presently documented for the refuge and we still project a final list of approximately sixty species." Byron Weber appeared on the Montana PBS program Backroads of Montana (Episode Twenty-Four “Fromberg to Ulm” ) talking about Montana butterflies; skip to the 23:23 timeline mark of the archived video to watch. Montana Field Guides, official State website dedicated to plant and animal life of Montana, also contains much good information on ecology, distribution and identification of butterfly species.
The Refuge, with expertise of Volunteers Rob Mediak, Paul and Mary Hayes and Dianne Adams, designed and built a Pollinator Garden in 2007 for the benefit of butterflies and other pollinators...and wildlife watchers. It is located at the entrance to the Visitor Center. A true case of "build it and they will come"; many butterfly species come to the flowers for nectar and inadvertently pollinate the plant. Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden is a USFWS publication offering advice on creating your own pollinator garden. The Service also has an excellent series of webpages dedicated to Pollinators. Pollination results when the pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma) and fertilizes it, resulting in the production of fruits and seeds. Some flowers rely on the wind to move pollen, while other rely on animals to move pollen. Animals visit flowers in search of food and sometimes even mates, shelter and nest-building materials. Some animals, such as many bees, intentionally collect pollen, while others, such as many butterflies and birds, move pollen incidentally because the pollen sticks on their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators.The Missoula County Extension Service published many years ago Butterfly Flowers in Missoula Valley Grasslands as guide for wildflowers and the butterflies that use them...though dated, it is short and concise and has excellent information. A companion document from the Externsion Service contains information documenting bloom dates (phenology) of Wildflowers and Weeds of Missoula Valley Grasslands to give you a general idea of when to look for certain species.
Some common butterflies nectaring early to mid-July at the WVA are highlighted on this Refuge webpage. Please monitor our Twitter and Tumblr accounts for dynamic/timely butterfly sightings.
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Characteristic species of riparian, gallery forest habitat; requires snags for nesting and eats free-flying insects and fruit.