A talented man was able to repopulate a rare butterfly species right in his own backyard!
A man living in California made it his mission to repopulate the pipevine swallowtail of California: a butterfly with beautiful blue-colored wings. It is considered one of the most valued species found in entire North America.
Although pipevine swallowtail used to thrive in San Francisco and in the Bay area for many centuries, due to the urbanization phenomenon, which started around the beginning of the 20th century, its population had begun to diminish drastically. A hundred years later, and the butterflies are nowhere to be found, it would be a surprise to spot even one pipevine swallowtail in one lifetime.
Tim Wang, an aquatic biologist at the Academy of Sciences in California, couldn’t believe the news when he first heard them. He has decided to turn the tables and do all that he can to repopulate the pipevine swallowtail.
He started researching the pipevine swallowtail in 2012. He’s discovered this specific species using only one source of food: a plant, which is also nearing towards extinction. He knew that spotting this plant could be the key to expedite the butterfly’s repopulation process.
After a lot of consideration, Tim decided to visit the San Fransico Botanical Garden, to spot the plant, take a few pictures and learn more about it. He realized he had to research further, and asked permission to grow his own plant in his own backyard, which was granted.
Tim took fantastic care of the plant and encouraged it to grow, so it could become a safe haven for pipevine swallowtails in the future. However, Tim needed more; he needed to allow the butterflies to grow and flourish safely, he’d also have to protect them from predators and cultivate an environment that encourages them to mate.
He’d build a specialized enclosure, that was based on his study on the butterflies’ environment. He was able to determine which plant was an ideal host for females, so they could easily mate and repopulate.
Once the habitat was complete, Tim went to many gardens and homes around the city. With full permission, he could look for caterpillars that matched the pipevine swallowtail’s description. He scoured every inch of the town until he finally found 20 perfect caterpillars. Tim transported them to his backyard, which was all set for their every need.
Six weeks later, a lot has changed at Tim Wang’s backyard. The caterpillars had metamorphized into beautiful, unique butterflies. The female adults had just laid red tiny eggs on the pipevine’s plant stems. Tim couldn’t believe his success!
Tim kept on taking care of the butterflies for generations. Suddenly, a few generations later, the butterflies started to repopulate at a drastic rate. Within a few days, his backyard was out of space. To ease the crowdedness, Tim donated some of the young caterpillars to the San Fransico Botanical Garden, where he first found the butterflies’ one and only food source.
Even so, Tim had noticed that every few months, the butterflies’ repopulation rate kept rising drastically the thousands. Nowadays, he donates butterflies to many botanical gardens all over California.
Tim’s initiative has definitely helped save the pipevine swallowtail. Surprisingly, he is not alone; conservationists based in Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties are also trying to repopulate the blue-winged butterflies.
Wong believes that he mostly owes his success to the research and information he learned on the butterflies’ habitat; The more he knew, the better he could establish a safe, well-balanced environment for them.
Over the last 7 years alone, Tim has naturally grown more than 200 plants, which were the home of more butterflies than we can count.