New book delves into the lives of the world’s rarest butterflies

Conservation biologist Nick Haddad didn’t set out to study rare butterflies. His undergraduate studies didn’t focus on butterflies at all. Yet the plight of the St. Francis’ Satyr, a butterfly so scarce that it’s found in artillery ranges at a single military base in North Carolina, intrigued him and set in motion a decades-long search to find the world’s rarest butterflies and determine how best to aid in their recovery.

In his new book, “The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature,” Haddad chronicles the stories of six extremely rare butterflies: the Bay Checkerspot, Fender’s Blue, Crystal Skipper, Miami Blue, St. Francis’ Satyr and Schaus’ Swallowtail. As Haddad tracked these butterflies, he was surprised to learn that some conservation efforts were actually harming their populations. Even more surprising: he found that you have to kill some butterflies in order to bring them back from the brink of extinction.  

“The rarest butterflies are at the leading edge of an insect apocalypse,” says Haddad. “The causes of their decline and the needs for their restoration can inform conservation of Monarchs, other butterflies and insects in general.”                      

“The Last Butterflies” is written for a broad audience of people interested in butterflies, gardening, and general science and nature topics. Its subject matter is timely and its lessons critically important, as shown by recent reporting on the sobering worldwide decline of insects.

“The Last Butterflies,” published by the Princeton University Press, has a release date of Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

Nicholas Haddad, Department of Integrative Biology, Kellogg Biological Station

About Nick Haddad

Nick Haddad is a professor and senior terrestrial ecologist in the Department of Integrative Biology and the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He is the director of the KBS Long-term Ecological Research program, which studies the ecology of agricultural landscapes. Besides studies of rare butterflies, his research focuses on habitat conservation in agricultural and forested landscapes.

Haddad lives with his family in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a state that is home to three species of critically endangered butterflies.

About the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station

As Michigan State University’s largest off-campus educational complex, KBS has put its land-grant values into practice for nearly a century, providing the public with examples of science’s crucial role in sustaining natural and managed communities. KBS students and faculty work to understand and solve real-world environmental problems for a better tomorrow. To learn more, visit