The Skipper Garden was created by horticulture staff in 2005. It is an AZA Zoo Conservation Project that was created to raise awareness of endangered and threatened butterfly species. The Dakota Skipper was once widely distributed across Midwestern United States. It has experienced significant declines in the last 150 years.
The Skipper's primary reason for decline is the conversion of native prairie to cropland as well as urban development. The Dakota Skipper depends on high quality prairie habitat for survival, and is an important indicator of prairie health. The last remaining stronghold of the Dakota Skipper is in western Minnesota, northeast South Dakota, and most of North Dakota. We have not specifically seen any Dakota skippers in our garden. Minnesota does have more then two dozen other skipper varieties that are native.
Specific plants attract certain kinds of butterflies and moth species. Adult butterflies choose their favorite nectar plants to feed at, and along with the caterpillars that also eat their favorites. Shelter is important to butterflies too. They like a sunny location and away from prevailing winds. Color is a factor to attract them to the garden also. An example, Monarchs use milkweed as a caterpillar food as well as a nectar source when they are adults, they also lay their eggs on underside of the milkweed leaf. Swallowtail larva feed on parsley and lay their eggs on carrots, parsley and dill.