Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 53–63 | Cite as

Effects of grass-specific herbicides on butterflies: an experimental investigation to advance conservation efforts

  • Cheryl Russell
  • Cheryl B. SchultzEmail author
Original Paper


Encroachment by invasive plants is a leading threat to rare butterflies. Restoration plans increasingly recommend herbicides to control invasive plants within butterfly habitats. Few studies address the effects of these herbicides on at-risk butterflies. The effects of two graminicides (fluazifop-p-butyl and sethoxydim) and a surfactant (Preference®) were evaluated on Icaricia icarioides blackmorei and Pieris rapae. The effects on butterfly larvae were assessed by mimicking recommended timing and mixture rates of field applications. Differences in survival to adult eclosure, development time, biomass, sex ratio and adult morphology were assessed. Survival of P. rapae was reduced by 32% with sethoxydim and 21% with fluazifop-p-butyl. Wing size and pupal weights of P. rapae were reduced by herbicide treatments. Icaricia icarioides blackmorei experienced a 21% reduction in development time from the date of treatment to eclosure. These results highlight the importance of careful consideration in the use of herbicides in habitats harboring at-risk butterfly populations.


Conservation Lepidoptera Pesticides Toxicity Non-target effects Larval development 



We give special thanks to John Stark and Steve Sylvester for their comments, technical assistance, and manuscript review. Many individuals contributed in laboratory support, field work and data collection, including Lora Martinez, Brenda Green, Crystal Hazen, Sara Hansen, and, Kristine Casteel. Leslie Rossmell, Caitlin LaBar and Loni Beyer provided additional feedback during this project. This work was supported by US Fish and Wildlife Service Oregon Field Office, WSU Myer’s Endowment, a Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award for Graduate Research and Conservation on the Lepidoptera from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to C. Russell, and a WSU Robert Lane Fellowship in Environmental Studies to C. Russell. In addition we thank two anonymous reviewers and the journal editor for comments which substantially improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Washington State University VancouverVancouverCanada

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