Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 1047–1058 | Cite as

Characterizing a contentious management tool: the effects of a grass-specific herbicide on the silvery blue butterfly

  • Rachel M. GlaeserEmail author
  • Cheryl B. Schultz


Selective herbicides are a conservation tool employed to reduce invasive vegetation and improve habitat for native plants and animals. However, herbicides may negatively affect non-target organisms such as butterflies through direct chemical exposure or by altering plant community composition and structure. We evaluate the effect of the grass-specific herbicide fluazifop-p-butyl on behavior and demographic responses of the silvery blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) in the field and also quantify effects on reproductive behavior in the greenhouse. We find that in the first few months after an early spring application, herbicide decreases vertical grass structure but does not have a positive or negative net effect on adult behavior, egg deposition, larval density, pupal weight, or ant-tending association for the silvery blue. Our greenhouse oviposition choice trials corroborate field findings and indicate that females do not show preference for unsprayed host plants. Selective herbicides create a vegetative structure preferred by butterflies and do not negatively affect the silvery blue when applied in the early spring. Appropriate timing of herbicide application is likely the key to avoiding adverse effects on vulnerable butterfly life stages. Depending on the longevity of the vegetative reduction, strategic herbicide application may be useful for restoring prairie communities in concert with other restoration tools; however, further testing on additional butterfly species is an imperative precursor to large-scale spraying.


Butterfly Lycaenidae Grass-specific herbicide Fluazifop-p-butyl Prairie management Oviposition choice trial 



We would sincerely like to thank the following individuals and agencies for their assistance with this project. We thank those who helped collect the data and provided logistical support in the field especially Tyler Hicks and field assistants Phoebe Tyson and Jake Courkamp. Paul Severns and Tyler Hicks provided invaluable advice during this project’s inception. We thank U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff including Jock Beall for accommodating this study at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge and Jeremy DePiero for applying the herbicide. We thank Paul Severns, Elizabeth Crone and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments that greatly improved this manuscript. We thank Jessica Zemaitis for logistical assistance in the greenhouse. We would especially like to thank Nathaniel Pope for assisting immensely with the statistical analyses. This work was funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, a Joan Mosenthal DeWind Award from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a Student Grant Award from the Northwest Scientific Association, and a Washington State University Robert Lane Fellowship in Environmental Studies.

Supplementary material

10841_2014_9714_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (124 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 123 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Washington State University VancouverVancouverUSA

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