Program aims to breed rare Minnesota butterflies

Published On: Dec 26 2012 06:23:58 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 26 2012 06:24:00 AM CST

The 20 tiny butterfly larvae being cared for by a Minnesota Zoo biologist could represent the last hope for a species that used to be ubiquitous across Minnesota prairies.

A St. Paul Pioneer Press report says the Poweshiek Skipperling used to flit and float above more than 2 million acres of Minnesota prairie. Now, for some reason, they've virtually disappeared.

There are some populations in Wisconsin and Michigan, but the brown butterfly with white stripes may already be extinct in Minnesota.

But conservation biologist Erik Runquist hopes to bring them back. He's caring for 20 tiny larvae that are each the size of a grain of rice.

By breeding new generations of Poweshieks, he and state officials hope to figure out what killed their predecessors.