Mormon Metalmark (Prairie Population)

Nicole DollBlog, Education

Mormon Metalmark
  • Scientific NameApodemia mormo  
  • SARA Status: Special Concern
  • COSEWIC Status: Special Concern  
  • COSEWIC Range: Saskatchewan  

The Mormon Metalmark is a small butterfly that is found in two distinct populations in Canada, one in British Columbia and the other in Saskatchewan. The population we will be discussing is the prairie population, which is found in distinct regions in southern Saskatchewan.  

Photo by Shelley Pruss courtesy of Government of Canada 

The Mormon Metalmark has a wingspan of 25 to 32 mm and is dark brown and orange with white metallic markings on its wings. These unique markings are what they are named after. In contrast, during their larval stage as a caterpillar, they are dark purple with yellow spots and black bristles.  

The prairie population of the butterfly is found in certain areas within Grassland National Park, as well as a few adjacent private properties and community pastures. Within these areas, they prefer open, arid habitats where the soil is eroded and unstable.  

It is in this environment that Few-flowered Buckwheat and the Branched Umbrella-plant are found, both of which are needed for the survival of the butterfly. The plants act as a host for larval, as well as a nectar source for the adult stage of feeding.  

The Mormon Metalmark lay their eggs near the base of these plants which is where they spend the winter. The adults emerge as butterflies sometime between late July to late September and only live for about 10 days, feeding primarily on their host plant.   

Population sizes are not fully known for this species, and as more sampling efforts take place, the more occupied sites are found. Because of this, their designation has moved down from ‘Threatened’ to ‘Special Concern’.  

Threats: Since the prairie population is mostly protected within Grassland National Parks, there are fewer direct effects that contribute to their decline. However, since they do occur within some community pastures, overgrazing and ATV use can damage or kill the Few-flowered Buckwheats and Branched Umbrella-plant, as well as introduce invasive species that can out-compete these native plants. 

What’s being done: The Mormon Metalmark is protected federally under Species at Risk Act (SARA). It is important that remaining key habitat in Grassland National Park continues to be protected and properly managed. Furthermore, ensuring habitat is protected outside of the park by involving landowners to monitor Mormon Metalmark and the plant species that it relies on. More research and surveying is needed to determine the population size and areas of critical habitat so more concrete management plans can be created.  

Resources:  

Mormon metalmark (Apodemia mormo): COSEWIC assessment and status report 2014 – Canada.ca 

Mormon Metalmark Species at Risk Profile Species 

South of the Divide | Mormon metalmark