Saving a butterfly | Reporter’s notebook

The San Juan Islands are the only known home of the Island Marble Butterfly and it is currently at risk of becoming extinct.

We must do what we can to save this delicate species from disappearing.

Should this butterfly die out, it would be a great loss. This is not the only pollinating insect struggling for survival — as are bees and other butterflies. Without pollinators, fruits and vegetables, as well as wildflowers would cease to exist.

Clearly, without vegetation creatures further up the food chain would die off, eventually including people.

This butterfly also has many fascinating traits. It was thought to be extinct for 90 years, and no one is sure where it was, or what it was doing, during that time. It is a quiet, under the radar creature that spends most of its life in a cocoon. It works hard to build that cocoon, strapping it tightly to its chosen mustard or pepperweed plant with strands of silk.

As with most insects, the species needs a hearty population to survive. It is thought that only 200 of these delicate butterflies still remain. As Jenny Shrum pointed out in her talk about the species, it is in dire straits.

The National Park Service — which manages American Camp — as well as the San Juan County Land Bank, the San Juan Preservation Trust, University of Washington and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, are all working diligently to conserve this butterfly.

The general public and private landowners can help to preserve the marbles, too.

What you can do to save the island marble butterfly:

• Stick to established trails and tread with care when walking in known butterfly habitat, primarily meadows.

• Landowners can work to protect the marble butterfly’s favorite plants — mustard and pepperweed — by not plowing and removing it.

• To prevent an insect collapse on a larger scale, landowners can refrain from the use of pesticides and herbicides.

Amelia the butterfly has given us hope by showing signs the island marbles may be laying eggs beyond its currently known habitat, but its fate remains up in the air. San Juan County is the last known location for this butterfly. It is in our hands to protect, and it will be on us if it is lost.