Biologist repopulated rare butterfly species in his backyard all by himself

Proof that one man can make a difference after all.

If you think your conservation efforts aren’t going to do anything because you’re “just one person,” think again. One man single-handedly brought back an entire population of butterflies.

The California pipevine swallowtail butterfly (or Battus philenor hirsuta), native to San Francisco, began to disappear in the 20thcentury when the city was developing. Eventually it became rare to see their bright blue wings flapping around the city. Now, there’re making a comeback thanks to Tim Wong, an aquatic biologist at the California Academy of Sciences.


[new_image position="standard" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/ByHFFrYhCYo/" id="null"][/new_image]

Wong has had a life-long fascination with butterflies. "I first was inspired to raise butterflies when I was in elementary school," Wong told Vox. "We raised painted lady butterflies in the classroom, and I was amazed at the complete metamorphosis from caterpillar to adult." But it was the pipevine swallowtail that particularly piqued his interest, so Wong became committed to reviving the rare butterfly.

It wasn’t an easy mission. The butterflies only feed on one type of plant, the California pipevine, which is part of the reason why they’re becoming scarce. In San Francisco, the California pipevine is just as hard to find as the butterfly they share a name with. Wong had to search around. "Finally, I was able to find this plant in the San Francisco Botanical Garden [in Golden Gate Park]," Wong said. "And they allowed me to take a few clippings of the plant."

Wong constructed a greenhouse in his backyard then populated it with 20 caterpillars he acquired from private residences. "[I built] a large screen enclosure to protect the butterflies and to allow them to mate under outdoor environmental conditions — natural sun, airflow, temp fluctuations," Wong explained. "The specialized enclosure protects the butterflies from some predators, increases mating opportunities, and serves as a study environment to better understand the criteria female butterflies are looking for in their ideal host plant."

Thanks to Wong’s conservation efforts, the butterflies are now thriving. “Each year since 2012, we’ve seen more butterflies surviving in the garden, flying around, laying eggs, successfully pupating, and emerge the following year,” Wong said. “That’s a good sign that our efforts are working!” The butterflies normally emerge from their chrysalis in the spring, and are seen flapping their bright blue wings between February to October. They normally have a lifespan of two to five weeks.

The biologist releases his cultivated caterpillars to the California Native exhibit in the San Francisco Botanical Garden and documents their growth on Instagram, earning him the name, “Butterfly Whisperer.” The bright blue hue of the butterflies makes them Insta-worthy for sure.

Wong insists conservation isn’t just for people who have the word “biologist” in their job title. It’s for everyone. "Improving habitat for native fauna is something anyone can do," Wong said. "Conservation and stewardship can start in your very own backyard."Conservation is the ultimate DIY project.

Articles

The Justice Department sent immigration judges a white nationalist blog post

The blog post was from an "anti-immigration hate website."

Attorney General William Barr via Wikimedia Commons

Department of Justice employees were stunned this week when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) sent court employees a morning briefing that contained a link to a "news" item on VDare, a white nationalist website.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, VDare is an "anti-immigration hate website" that "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites." The website was established in 1999 by its editor Peter Brimelow.

The morning briefing is distributed to all EOIR employees on a daily basis, including all 440 immigration judges across the U.S.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Smithfly.com

"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

Keep Reading Show less
Lifestyle

We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News