Thanks to the efforts of biologist Tim Wong, a species that may have become extinct is now thriving in large numbers.
California residents may or may not be familiar with the pipevine swallowtail, which takes its name after the state. The iridescent blue-colored wings of this magnificent creature are recognized by bird lovers all over North America. It's a beautiful butterfly that has been thriving in the San Francisco Bay Area for centuries now. Due to the rapid urbanization of the surrounding region over the last century, the butterfly species, unfortunately, started to deplete in numbers. It was becoming rare for people there to spot it, causing worry.
According to Tim Wong, an aquatic biologist at the Academy of Sciences in California, his personal goal and mission became to see to the species' recovery and well being, EcoWatch reports. Wong went on to do something very promising and it has inspired us all. Back in 2012, he began the search for the California pipevine and its sole source of food, which also disappeared along with the butterfly around the city area. He said: "Finally, I was able to find this plant in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. And they allowed me to take a few clippings of the plant."
Wong went on to acquire and propagate the plant, which the butterflies depended on, in the backyard of his house. For years, he has watered and tended to it patiently whilst weeding his garden to create a real paradise for the pipevine swallowtail. The biologist explained that he built a large screen enclosure so that the insect may be well protected from the elements. He would allow the species to mate when the outside environmental conditions suit it best. Once the natural airflow, sunlight, and temperature levels were perfect, the species would grow in large numbers.
Furthermore, this specialized enclosure also helps protect the butterflies from predators. The plus side to Wong's own research is that it wonderfully serves as a natural environment for studying and observing these insects. After the habitat had been prepared, Wong acquired about twenty caterpillars from several residences outside of the city where there was better vegetation. He then carefully transported them to his home and set them loose in their new feeding and breeding grounds.
Six weeks later, these tiny caterpillars all morphed into gorgeous butterflies, as the females began to start laying some tiny red eggs for a future generation. The plant stems that Wong had gathered and the environment he set up were crucial to this success. A few generations later, the butterflies began to multiply exponentially and he even had to donate some caterpillars to the nearby botanical gardens due to the excessive amount. Wong said: "Improving habitat for native fauna is something anyone can do. Conservation and stewardship can start in your very own backyard."
"Finally, I was able to find this plant in the San Francisco Botanical Garden [in Golden Gate Park]," Wong told Vox. "And they allowed me to take a few clippings of the plant." Wong took those clippings and transplanted them in his own do-it-yourself butterfly spa. "They feed as a little army," he says. "They roam around the pipevine plant from leaf to leaf, munching on it as a group."