Boone man finds butterfly rare to the mountains

Article Published: Apr. 28, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Boone man finds butterfly rare to the mountains

The rare Olympic Marble butterfly can be identified by the unique golden marbling on the underside of its wings.

Photo by Kevin Caldwell

The Nature Conservancy's Merrill Lynch recently documented a breeding colony of the Olympia Marble butterfly (Euchloe olympia) in the North Carolina mountains - far from its usual home in the prairies of the central United States.

Lynch, who runs the Nature Conservancy's Boone office, went searching for the Olympia Marble after hearing that a colony had recently been discovered in Tennessee.

The search involved a bit of detective work.

"I did some research on its habitat and preferred food plants and started thinking about places in North Carolina where it might occur," Lynch said. "I zeroed in on a particular area in Madison County that I thought had potential."

He and fellow biologist Kevin Caldwell found a colony of the butterflies in Madison County, but the Conservancy is not revealing the exact location for fear that collectors will pursue his find.

"We drove into the area that fit this description and, at our first stop, we were looking at an Olympia Marble nectaring on the roadside," he said. "I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get a picture, knowing that the discovery was significant and there would be questions."

He wasn't successful with the camera, but Caldwell did get confirmation photos a few days later.
The Olympic Marble is named for the golden marbling on its under wings. "It is a very distinctive butterfly, and it occurs in a unique habitat that is very rare in the state," Lynch said.

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