Of the 191 butterfly species currently known to occur in Oklahoma, 147 have been found on at least one of the Oklahoma preserves of The Nature Conservancy, revealing the incredible richness and diversity of the habitats protected by these preserves. Several of the species lists on these preserves are approaching the century mark with the Keystone Ancient Forest leading at 99 known species, followed closely by Pontotoc Ridge at 96, Nickel at 94, and the Tallgrass Prairie with 89. In spite of the drought, we added 22 new preserve records to the list in 2006. Seven of these were also new county records. Finding Dotted Skippers, Hesperia attalus, at Keystone and a Regal Fritillary, Speyeria idalia, at the White Oak Prairie was a pleasant surprise. Both of these prairie specialists are considered to be threatened throughout their range and indicative of quality prairie habitat. In addition, during the annual Tallgrass Prairie butterfly count, over 80 Regal Fritillaries were recorded. Prior to this year the highest number of Regals found on the Preserve had been slightly over 20.
One interesting find on this year's TGP count that was originally thought to be a couple of "funky looking" Pearl Crescents, Phyciodes tharos, turned out to be a small colony of Vesta Crescents, Phyciodes graphica, a new preserve and Osage County record. We also found several additional populations in Tulsa, Pawnee, Okmulgee, and Okfuskee Counties later in the year. The only other Oklahoma records for this species have been from the southwest and one southern county.
Since 1993, small groups of dedicated volunteers have gathered at the Oklahoma Chapter's preserves in June and July to census the butterflies found there. This year marked the 14th consecutive count at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and the first at the Black Mesa Nature Preserve. Counts were also held at Pontotoc Ridge, Nickel, Keystone, and Four Canyon. These counts are generally held the same time each year as we work to build some long term population trend information. Because insect populations are so variable from year to year we are just now starting to get some useable trend data from the TGP count.January 29, 2011