Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 5–6, pp 781–790 | Cite as

Species distribution model for the ‘Northern’ Oak hairstreak (Satyrium favonius ontario) with comments on its conservation status in the northeastern United States

  • Benedict L. Gagliardi
  • David L. Wagner
  • Jenica M. Allen


Satyrium favonius ontario: (W. H. Edwards) (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) is considered to be a rare butterfly in the northeastern United States. It receives legal protection in the state of Massachusetts as a Species of Special Concern. We studied the ecology and natural history of a colony of S. f. ontario at Great Blue Hills Reservation in Canton, Massachusetts. In addition, we assembled a database of confirmed S. f. ontario occurrences (n = 362) and used this along with climate and oak abundance data to build a species distribution model for the northeastern portion of the butterfly’s range in the United States. The model predicts that essentially the entirety of southern New England is suitable for the species, and thus its modeled distribution extends well north of all documented colonies/localities. Just two climate variables, precipitation seasonality and minimum temperature of the coldest month, explained 95% of the model and largely determined relative suitability predictions. We make the case that the hairstreak is a canopy-dwelling insect that sporadically makes ground-level visits, and that its assumed regional rarity is due to detection difficulties rather than demographic rarity. While the butterfly may be imperiled and worthy of legal protection in portions of its range, we question the validity of population estimates and necessity of conservation efforts based on ground-level adult sightings, and recommend larval sampling using burlap bands as a more reliable method to census this butterfly. We also discuss the possibility that other Satyrium and more distantly related hairstreaks (e.g., Callophrys hesseli and Parrhasius m-album) may be additional examples of temperate, canopy-based butterflies.


False rarity Canopy-dwelling Niche model Sampling bias Vertical stratification Callophrys hesseli Parrhasius m-album Satyrium liparops 



We were fortunate to have assistance from a small legion of entomologists, conservation biologists, and butterfly watchers for this project. Key partners included the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (MA NHESP) (Mike Nelson), the Massachusetts Butterfly Club (MBC) (Bruce deGraaf, Greg Dysart, Mark Fairbrother, Howard Hoople, Garry Kessler, Steve Moore, and Sharon Stichter), and the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Blue Hills Reservation (Tom Bender, Joe Orfant, Charles Orlaff, Don McCasland, and Nancy Putnam). Key contributors of occurrence data included: MBC (especially Mark Fairbrother), MA NHESP, the Connecticut Butterfly Atlas and Massachusetts Butterfly Atlas Projects, American Museum of Natural History, Cornell University, New York State Museum, Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, University of Connecticut, and Yale University, and several amateur and professional lepidopterists in CT (Andy Brand, Peter DeGennaro, Greg Hanisek), MA (Darryl Willis, Mark Mello), PA (Richard Boscoe, David Wright, Frank Fee), NY (Steve Walter, Rick Cech, Harry Zirlin, Tom Fiore), NJ (David Iftner, Dale Schweitzer, Jack Connor) and RI (Harry Pavulaan). Robert Robbins (Smithsonian Institution) provided useful unpublished data and guided aspects of the study. Likewise, Rick Cech and David Wright provided helpful unpublished observations, literature citations, and advice throughout our study. Mike Nelson (MA NHESP) assisted with permitting matters in 2013 and 2014. Assistance with the burlap bands was provided by Neil Schoppmann, Kevin Keegan, Tate Lavitt, Ben North, and Katie Todd. An early draft of the paper was read and critiqued by Cory Merow. We also acknowledge two anonymous reviewers for their many helpful suggestions. Our involvement and research efforts were made possible by financial support from MA NHESP (Contract No. HERIT-13-05) to DLW. Other supplemental support was supplied by USFS Co-op Agreement 14-CA-11420004-138, Northeast Utilities (EverSource), and the Richard P. Garmany Fund (Hartford Foundation) to DLW.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benedict L. Gagliardi
    • 1
  • David L. Wagner
    • 1
  • Jenica M. Allen
    • 2
  1. 1.Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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