Oviposition preference in Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas editha taylori): Collaborative research and conservation with incarcerated women

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori) is a federally threatened pollinator of increasingly rare prairies in the Willamette Valley-Puget Tough-Georgia Basin ecoregion. Since the arrival of European settlers, land use changes, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species have contributed to a decline in available native host plants for E. e. taylori larvae. The most commonly utilized host is now lance-leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata), an exotic species long prevalent in the area. None of the known native hosts are ideal for supporting E. e. taylori recovery efforts, so P. lanceolata is currently planted at butterfly reintroduction sites. Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), a federally threatened perennial, does not now co-occur with E. e. taylori but may have been an important host historically and could be more suitable than the known native hosts. Previous work has shown that oviposition preference is: 1) heritable and may provide clues as to which hosts were historically important, and 2) is correlated with larval success so might indicate which native hosts would be most effective at restoration sites. I undertook a manipulative oviposition preference experiment to determine which potential hosts were preferred by E. e. taylori among P. lanceolata, C. levisecta, and harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), a known native host. The two Castilleja spp. were preferred equally, but both were preferred over P. lanceolata. If further research confirms the suitability of C. levisecta as a host for E. e. taylori, restoration efforts for the two species could be united, and the effectiveness of both might be synergistically increased. This project was undertaken collaboratively with inmates at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women with support from the Sustainability in Prisons Project and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and seeks to benefit multiple stakeholders through an interdisciplinary intersection of conservation biology and social sustainability.