There’s no question that butterflies are beautiful — to many people they represent freedom and rebirth. Yet even some widespread species have recently become rare or vanished from large areas. 

The myriad threats to butterflies’ survival include habitat destruction (caused by agriculture and urban and commercial development), pesticide use, collection and global climate change.

Of the 1,470 animals listed as protected under the Endangered Species Act, 31 are butterflies. They range from Queen Alexandra’s birdwing — the world’s largest butterfly — to the tiny mission blue, which is found in the heavily populated San Francisco Bay Area.

The Center is actively fighting to save imperiled butterflies. From Florida’s Miami blue and Schaus swallowtail to California’s Lange’s metalmark and Behren’s silverspot, far too many of the creatures are teetering on the brink of extinction. We take on the Fish and Wildlife Service when it fails to give butterflies the protection they need; we write reports documenting their population trends; and we challenge projects that may further imperil them. Through these efforts we hope to ensure the winged beauties don’t disappear once and for all.

In 2014 the Center petitioned for monarch butterflies to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Learn about our work to protect monarch butterflies.

Dr. Edward O. Wilson, an internationally noted entomologist and conservation biologist, called insects “the little things that run the world.” If insects were to vanish, life on Earth as we know it would quickly end. The Center’s Saving the Insects campaign is working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Myrtles silverspot butterfly photo by David Kelly