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Swallowtail Butterfly 512 x 340Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge is one of seven sites in North Dakota that underwent extensive butterfly research. Biologists are now armed with an inventory of butterflies that can be found within the 32,092-acre refuge - 75 of the 145 recorded species in North Dakota.


 Where can I find butterflies?

The numbers and types of butterflies on the refuge change not just daily and weekly, but hourly as well, depending on temperature, wind and location. Just as deer - and all animals - have certain basic needs for food, water and cover, so do butterflies. But butterflies are not as adaptable as deer. Instead, think of butterflies as being more like the bighorn sheep of the insect world - less versatile, less flexible - needing more of a certain type of niche in which to live their lives. Upper Souris NWR offers grassland butterflies, such as Dakota Skipper and the Melissa Blue. 

When should I look for butterflies? 

Butterflies are diurnal (active during the day). In fact, being cold-blooded creatures, they become more active as cool morning temperatures give way to summer warmth.

What do they eat? 


Native silverberry, a cousin to the Russian olive tree, is found in several places on the refuge and in early June provides valuable nectar for many butterfly species.  

How long do they live? 


The butterfly has a four-stage lifecycle. The first stage is the egg, followed by the larva (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult butterfly. Butterflies really are just caterpillars with wings. Their mobility allows for escape, finding food, mating and genetic diversity. After emerging from the chrysalis (the third stage in their life cycle) colorful adult butterflies generally only live about two weeks. But during that time, the subtle insect offers a fleeting splash of color, enlightening and enhancing a summer's day on the refuge.



Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014
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