Replant native vegetation

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    not assessed
  • Certainty
    not assessed
  • Harms
    not assessed

Study locations

Key messages


  • Community composition (3 studies): One replicated, site comparison study in Ecuador found that native trees planted within recently abandoned pasture and secondary shrubland had a similar community composition of butterflies and moths after 7–8 years, but a subset of communities found on native trees planted within pine plantations, or on saplings regenerating naturally within pristine forest. One replicated, site comparison study in Brazil found that 12–14-year-old replanted and naturally regenerating forests had a different butterfly community to both grazed pasture and remnant forest. One site comparison study in Mexico found that a replanted forest had a different community composition of caterpillars to a naturally regenerating forest.
  • Richness/diversity (5 studies): Four of five site comparison studies (including four replicated studies) in New Zealand, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil and the USA found that replanted native shrubs, grasses, non-woody broadleaved plants (forbs) and trees had a similar species richness or diversity of butterflies, caterpillars and flower-visiting insects (including butterflies and moths) to vineyards, pasture, naturally regenerating and remnant forests, and remnant prairies. However, one of these studies also found that the species richness of butterflies in replanted native shrubs and grasslands was lower than in remnant native habitat. The fifth study found that, after 7–8 years, native trees planted in pine plantations had a greater species richness of butterflies and moths than trees planted in recently abandoned pasture, but both had a lower species richness than naturally regenerating saplings within pristine forest.


  • Abundance (5 studies): Four of five site comparison studies (including four replicated studies) in New Zealand, Mexico and the USA found that replanted native shrubs, grasses, non-woody broadleaved plants (forbs), trees and translocated bamboo rush had a similar abundance of butterflies, caterpillars and flower-visiting insects (including butterflies and moths), and density of Fred the thread moth caterpillars to vineyards, pasture, naturally regenerating forest, remnant prairies and undisturbed bogs. However, one of these studies also found that replanted native shrubs and grasses had a lower abundance of butterflies than remnant native habitat. The fifth study found that common milkweed planted in meadows had fewer monarch butterfly eggs than milkweed planted in private gardens.
  • Survival (2 studies): Two replicated studies (including one randomized, controlled study and one site comparison study) in the USA found that the survival of common sooty winged skipper and monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars was similar on planted patches of lamb’s-quarters of different sizes, and on common milkweed planted in meadows or private gardens.
  • Condition (1 study): One replicated, site comparison study in New Zealand found that Fred the thread moth caterpillars in translocated bamboo rush plants were a similar size to caterpillars in undisturbed bogs.


  • Use (3 studies): Three studies in the USA and Switzerland reported that planted patches of silver lupine, prairie violet and bladder senna were used by wild mission blue and Iolas blue butterflies, and translocated regal fritillaries, for at least three or 4–10 years after planting.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A study (year not specified) in a mountain grassland and shrubland in California, USA (Walsh 1987) reported that habitat restored by planting and seeding was used by mission blue butterflies Plebejus icarioides missionensis. Mission blue butterfly eggs were found on silver lupine Lupinus albifrons var. collinus plants growing in an area of restored habitat (no further details provided). From spring 1982, a 14-ha area on San Bruno Mountain was restored by a combination of hydroseeding (using a slurry of seed and mulch) and container planting of native plants (no further details provided). Details of data collection were not provided.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, randomized, controlled study in 1984 in a field at an ecological research station in Illinois, USA (Capman et al. 1990) found that the patch size of planted host plants did not affect the survival of common sooty wing skipper Pholisora catullus eggs and caterpillars. The survival of common sooty wing skipper eggs and caterpillars was similar in small (7%), medium (2%) and large (5%) patches of its host plant, lamb’s-quarters Chenopodium album. In 1984, in a recently ploughed field, lamb’s-quarters seedlings were planted 30 cm apart in square patches of four (small patch), 16 (medium patch) and 64 (large patch) plants. The centres of patches were 7 m apart. There were 44 small, 11 medium and 10 large patches. The area between patches was mown, and spread with herbicide in July. In August 1984, all skipper eggs were removed from nine small, six medium and five large patches. Three days later, all new eggs in these patches were individually marked (98, 134 and 162 eggs in small, medium and large patches, respectively). The survival of these eggs and their caterpillars was recorded every 3–5 days for one month, while all new eggs were removed.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A study in 1998–2004 on a restored prairie in Iowa, USA (Shepherd & Debinski 2005) reported that replanted native prairie violets Viola pedatifida supported a translocated regal fritillary Speyeria idalia population. In 2001, the first year after translocation to a prairie where violets had been planted, no butterflies were seen, but in 2002, one year after a second release, 84 adults were recorded. In the following two years, 11–12 fritillaries were observed in planted violet plots and other areas on 1–2 days/year. On 15 days in 2004, between 1–23 fritillaries were seen/day. Three–four years after planting, 73% of violets survived, and nine new plants had grown. In 1998 and 1999, prairie violets were planted at four sites in a 2,083-ha reserve of restored and remnant tallgrass prairie. At each site, five plots of 99 violets were planted in a grid (9 × 11 m), 1 m apart. From 1998–2002, the survival of violets was checked each spring. In July 2000 and August–September 2001, seven female fritillaries were caught and brought to the restored prairie. Fritillaries were placed in mesh cages (0.6 × 0.6 m or 1.8 × 1.8 m) directly over violet plants, and provided with nectar from cut flowers and moved to new violet plants each day. In June–August 2001–2004, butterflies were surveyed or opportunistically recorded across the site.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A replicated, site comparison study in 2008–2009 in six vineyards in Canterbury Province, New Zealand (Gillespie & Wratten 2012) found that planted native vegetation had a similar abundance and species richness of butterflies to amongst the vines or on pasture, but all were lower than in remnant native habitat patches. In planted native vegetation, the abundance (3 individuals/section) and species richness (0.5 species) of butterflies was similar to amongst the grape vines (abundance: 8 individuals/section; richness: 0.3 species) and on pasture fields (abundance: 7 individuals/section; richness: 0.5 species), but lower than in remnant native habitat patches (abundance: 14 individuals/section; richness: 0.7 species). See paper for individual species results. Six vineyards, each containing small (100–200 m2) areas of planted native shrubs and grasses and areas of remnant native vegetation (typically stands of matagouri Discaria toumatou and New Zealand bindweed Calystegia tuguriorum), alongside grape vines and grazed pasture, were selected. From October 2008–April 2009, butterflies were surveyed 13 times (once/fortnight) along a fixed transect through the different habitat patches on each vineyard. Transects were split into 9–14 sections based on habitat type for analysis.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A study in 2010 in vineyards in Valais, Switzerland (Heer et al. 2013) reported that planted bladder senna Colutea arborescens were used by Iolas blue butterflies Iolana iolas. Four to 10 years after planting, 19 out of 38 patches of planted bladder senna were occupied by Iolas blue, although total butterfly numbers were low (generally <15 individuals/patch). From 2000–2006, a total of 38 patches of 1–12 bladder senna seedlings were planted across a 10 km2 south-facing hillside at 500–950 m altitude. Seedlings were collected from local shrubs in mid-November, and watered 2–3 times during dry periods in their first year. Prior to planting, two natural patches of bladder senna in the area were known to support Iolas blue butterflies. In 2010, all 38 patches were surveyed at least once/week throughout the flight season. The number of Iolas blue within 5 m of the patch were recorded for 10 minutes.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A replicated, site comparison study in 2013 in three created peat bogs and three native peat bogs in Waikato, New Zealand (Watts et al 2013) found that following the translocation of bamboo rush Sporadanthus ferrugineus plants, three populations of Fred the thread moth Houdinia flexilissima established and had a similar density of caterpillars to three undisturbed bogs, and the caterpillars were a similar size. Five to seven years after transplanting bamboo rush, created peat bogs had a similar density of Fred the thread caterpillars (1 caterpillar/m of stem) to three undisturbed sites (1–2 caterpillars/m of stem). The caterpillars were a similar size in the created (7–10 mm) and undisturbed bogs (5–10 mm). From 2006–2008, at three sites, existing non-native vegetation was removed, the soil was excavated to 30 cm depth, and the depression was back-filled with peat. Bamboo rush plants (0.5–1.5 m tall) were transplanted from a peat mine and planted at 0.75 plants/m2 across 180–270 m2 at each site. It was assumed that Fred the thread moth caterpillars would be translocated within the bamboo rush plants. From March–April 2013, twenty 60-cm-long sections of bamboo rush stems were collected from each of four 33-cm-diameter plots/site, 2 m inside each corner of each replanted area. Stems were dissected in the lab to count caterpillars.

    Study and other actions tested
  7. A site comparison study in 2008 in two forest sites in Jalisco, Mexico (Hernandez et al. 2014) found that a forest restored by planting native trees and a naturally regenerated forest had a similar diversity and abundance of caterpillars, but the species present at the two sites differed. In a forest restored by planting, the diversity and abundance of caterpillars (119 individuals) was similar to a forest which had regenerated naturally (103 individuals; diversity data presented as model results). However, only 27% of species were found at both sites. Three conserved forest sites had an average abundance of 159 caterpillars/plot (statistical significance not assessed). In 2002, one 1-ha abandoned pasture was restored by planting 39 native tree species. A second 1-ha abandoned pasture had been regenerating naturally since 1992, and shared tree species with the restored site. Three conserved forest sites were also surveyed for comparison. From July–November 2008, caterpillars were sampled five times along four parallel 20 × 2-m transects/site, 20 m apart. All leaves in trees up to 2 m high were searched for caterpillars, and in trees >2 m high three branches/tree were searched. Caterpillars were reared in the laboratory to identify the adults.

    Study and other actions tested
  8. A replicated, site comparison study in 2003–2012 in southern Ecuador (Adams & Fiedler, 2015) found that native trees planted within pine plantations had a higher moth and butterfly species richness than native trees planted in pasture, but not than native trees planted in shrubland. Seven to eight years after planting, the species richness of moths and butterflies in native tree saplings planted in pine plantations (52 species) was higher than in saplings planted in abandoned pasture (24 species). The species richness in saplings planted in secondary shrubland (35) was not statistically different from pine plantations or pasture. However, all three restoration sites contained fewer species than naturally regenerating saplings in pristine rainforest (81 species). The community composition was similar between saplings in pasture and shrubland, but these communities were a subset of those in pine and natural forest. In 2003–2004, saplings were planted in randomly distributed plots in three habitats: recently abandoned pasture, secondary shrubland, and a 25–30-year-old pine plantation. Plots were 4.0 × 4.0 m (pine) or 10.8 × 10.8 m (pasture and shrub), and contained nine or 25 saplings planted 1.8 m apart. Saplings of Andean cedar Cedrela montana, golden trumpet-tree Tabebuia chrysantha and majaguillo Heliocarpus americanus were raised from locally collected seeds. From October 2010–May 2011 and October 2011–April 2012, between 26 and 47 healthy saplings with at least 15 leaves were sampled in each habitat. Insects were sampled on each sapling five times/year, by visual searching and beating onto a 1 × 1 m2 sheet. The search time and number of hits were determined based on the leaf area of the sapling (see paper for details).

    Study and other actions tested
  9. A replicated, site comparison study in 2009–2010 in five meadows and 20 residential gardens in Pennsylvania, USA (Cutting & Tallamy 2015) found that common milkweed Asclepias syriaca planted in meadows had fewer monarch butterflies Danaus plexippus eggs than milkweed planted in gardens, but caterpillar survival was similar across the sites. Milkweed patches in meadows (7–45 eggs/plot) contained fewer monarch eggs than milkweed patches in gardens (47–109 eggs/plot). Egg and caterpillar survival was similar in meadows (3.9–11.4%) and gardens (6.9–8.7%). In May–June 2009, twenty milkweed plants were planted in each of forty 2-m2 plots across five minimally managed native meadows and twenty 2-m2 plots in heavily managed lawns and gardens. In the meadows, 20 plots were located among existing milkweed patches, and 20 were planted >10 m from the nearest milkweed plants. Plants were grown from seed in greenhouses, surrounding vegetation was cut prior to planting, and sites were watered periodically. Plants were searched for eggs and caterpillars nine times from July–September 2009, and six times from 19–29 August 2010. Eggs and caterpillars were removed or marked to avoid double-counting. Monitoring ended if fewer than four healthy plants remained. On half of the plants at each site, survival of marked eggs and caterpillars was monitored over 11–14 days from the third week of August each year.

    Study and other actions tested
  10. A replicated, site comparison study in 2011 in a fragmented forest in Paraná, Brazil (Shuey et al 2017) found that replanted and regenerating forest plots had a similar species richness of butterflies to both grazed pasture and remnant forest, but the species present differed between habitats. The number of butterfly species in replanted (47–102 species) and regenerating (69 species) forest was not significantly different from in pastures (52–59 species) or remnant forest (57–79 species). However, out of 213 butterfly species recorded, 33 were found only on restored sites (replanted or regenerating), compared to 18 species unique to pastures and 66 species unique to remnant forests. Eight sites, all >40 ha, were studied: two former pastures planted with 15–20 species of native trees 12–14 years before the study, one former pasture ungrazed for 14 years and naturally regenerating from the surrounding remnant forest, two grazed open pastures, and three intact forest remnants. In January, March and April 2011, butterflies were sampled once/month. Four baited butterfly traps were placed 1–2 m above ground, 50 m apart, in the centre of each plot, for three consecutive days/month, and checked daily. In addition, butterflies were counted on two 1-hour transects/month at each site.

    Study and other actions tested
  11. A replicated, site comparison study in 2013–2015 in five restored and five remnant tallgrass prairies in Kansas, USA (Denning & Foster 2018) found that prairies restored by planting had a similar diversity and abundance of flower-visiting insects (including butterflies and moths) to remnant prairies. The diversity and total abundance of all flower-visiting insects, 14% of which were butterflies and moths, in restored prairies (abundance: 3,155 individuals) was similar to remnant prairies (abundance: 3,315 individuals; diversity data presented as model results). The total abundance of butterflies and moths in restored prairies was 353 individuals of 36 species, compared to 487 individuals of 38 species in remnant prairies (statistical significance not assessed). From 1992–2009, five restored prairies (3.1–7.0 ha) were created on former croplands by sowing 6–12 native grass and 15–121 native non-woody, broadleaved plant (forb) species. They were compared with five remnant prairies (3.5–5.8 ha). All prairies were >5 km apart, managed by periodic burning or haying, and all but one were burned or hayed at least once between 2013 and 2015. From April–July 2013–2015, a 100 × 100 m plot near the centre of each prairie was surveyed 2–4 times/year. On each survey, four 20-m transects/plot were walked twice recording all insects visiting open flowers. The whole plot was then surveyed for an additional 60 minutes recording all flower visitors.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Bladon A.J., Bladon, E. K., Smith R.K. & Sutherland W.J. (2023) Butterfly and Moth Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for butterflies and moths. Conservation Evidence Series Synopsis. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

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Butterfly and Moth Conservation

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Butterfly and Moth Conservation
Butterfly and Moth Conservation

Butterfly and Moth Conservation - Published 2023

Butterfly and Moth Synopsis

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