Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 867–877 | Cite as

Non-target effects of grass-specific herbicides differ among species, chemicals and host plants in Euphydryas butterflies

  • Cheryl B. SchultzEmail author
  • Jessica L. Zemaitis
  • Cameron C. Thomas
  • M. Deane Bowers
  • Elizabeth E. Crone


Habitat modification by invasive species places numerous butterfly species at risk of extinction. Grass-specific herbicides, graminicides, are a sought-after tool to reduce invasive grasses, augment forbs and enhance butterfly populations. However, possible non-target effects raise concern. We investigated non-target effects of graminicides on three species of caterpillars in the genus Euphydryas (Nymphalidae), a taxon with numerous species in decline worldwide. In one experiment, we compared the effects of three graminicides (clethodim, sethoxydim and fluazifop-p-butyl) on E. colon. In a second experiment, we assessed the effects of fluazifop-p-butyl, the most commonly used graminicide in prairies in the Northwest USA, on three Euphydryas species (E. colon, E. editha and E. phaeton), each raised on two different hostplants. In the first experiment, fluazifop-p-butyl did not affect survivorship of pre-diapause larvae, sethoxydim reduced survivorship by 20 % relative to controls, and effects of clethodim were inconclusive. Graminicides did not change the total concentration of iridoid glycosides in the caterpillars, but all three graminicides increased the concentration of aucubin to almost double the level in control treatments. In the second experiment, the effects of fluazifop-b-butyl were not consistent across butterfly and host plant species. However, fluazifop-b-butyl reduced group size of gregarious pre-diapause larvae under all conditions. Our results suggest that if managers use graminicides over the short-term to control invasive grasses, fluazifop-p-butyl has the most promise for minimal effects. However, efforts should be paired with demographic and behavioral monitoring to quantify context-dependent impacts.


Butterfly conservation Checkerspots Euphydryas Habitat restoration Herbicides 



We thank Strategic Environmental Research and Development Fund (SERDP, RC-2119), Washington State University Vancouver, Robert Lane Fellowship in Environmental Studies at WSU, and University of Colorado for financial support for this project. We thank Leone Brown and Emma Sass for collecting eggs from E. phaeton and David James for assisting in finding sites with E. editha colonia and E. colon. We thank Paul Butler of SunGro Horticulture for his generous donation of potting soil, and Mary Maddocks of McConkey Co. for arranging its delivery. We thank Sierra Smith and Center for Natural Lands Management for supplying Castilleja hispida. We thank Zach Freed, Kim Harless, Caitlin Kelly, Charlie McGowan, and Rebecca Neville for assistance in the greenhouse and laboratory, and Jahi Chappell and John Bishop for reviewing earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cheryl B. Schultz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica L. Zemaitis
    • 1
  • Cameron C. Thomas
    • 1
  • M. Deane Bowers
    • 2
  • Elizabeth E. Crone
    • 3
  1. 1.Washington State University, School of Biological SciencesVancouverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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