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Media inquiries: Please contact Julie Buchanan,, 804-786-2292.

Date: June 03, 2013
Contact: Julie Buchanan, Public Relations Specialist, (804) 786-2292,

New electronic atlas profiles some of Virginia's rarest insects

Editors: Photos for media use are posted to a Flickr gallery: Photographer credits accompany each photo.

RICHMOND - Learning about some of the rarest winged insects that occur in Virginia becomes easier today with the launch of a new electronic atlas.

The "Atlas of Rare Butterflies, Skippers, Moths, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Virginia" is available at It's free for anyone to use and contains information on 193 species. All are rare to Virginia, and many are rare nationally and globally. 

Users can look up insects by name, type or the county in which species have been observed. Searches generate details about each insect, including physical description, geographic range, behavior, food, threats and rarity ranks, plus photos. Information is presented in a printable fact sheet.

The project, more than two years in the making, is the result of a partnership between two state natural resource agencies: the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. DCR zoologists began research and data collection for the atlas in 2010. Funding came from DGIF through a state wildlife grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

To develop the atlas, zoologists used a variety of resources: the latest survey data, published literature and reports, field notes from biologists, museum specimens and the personal records of knowledgeable naturalists, collectors and scientists. In all, more than 50 people contributed to the atlas, resulting in more than 850 records that can be searched by the public.

"This project was a unique opportunity to gather data in ways we are not often funded to pursue," said DCR Zoologist Anne Chazal. "We were able to visit collections at museums, which helped in ascertaining the past distribution of species. We also were able to ask for citizen observations, which help us understand the species" current state. 

"Having this perspective of a species: distribution over time is essential for understanding its conservation priority."

Reasons vary for the decline of each insect profiled in the atlas. Two of the most prevalent are habitat loss and the unintended effects of past efforts to eradicate the destructive, non-native gypsy moth. 

Many rare insects depend on a single host-plant species for survival.

"When developing a conservation plan for an area or a species, understanding the natural limits and needs of wildlife is as important as understanding the threats they face," Chazal said. "Projects such as this atlas help to consolidate data and show us where there are gaps in the data." 

Updated information also is critical for the state's Wildlife Action Plan. Managed by DGIF, the plan identifies steps needed to conserve more than 900 animal species and their habitats across Virginia. The plan is focused on animal species with the greatest conservation need.

"As DGIF implements its Wildlife Action Plan, we have encouraged partnerships and projects such as this atlas both to strengthen interagency cooperation in natural resource protection and to inform and educate our constituents about Virginia's wildlife resources," said DGIF Environmental Services Manager Ray Fernald. "This project promotes environmental awareness and wildlife recreation by Virginia's citizens and visitors alike."


Additional contact: Ray Fernald, DGIF environmental services manager, 804-367-8364

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