San Francisco is a beautiful city, full of sights, history, and culture. But like any city, it’sbeen built pretty much exclusively for its human population despite the fact that there are many, many other creatures that call cities home.
One animal that called San Francisco its home was the California pipevine swallowtail, a beautiful butterfly with iridescent sapphire wings. Butterfly enthusiasts consider it one of the most stunning butterflies in North America.
But as the city grew and grew, the butterflies’ habitat shrank, causing the populations to dwindle. Today, there are drastically fewer pipevine swallowtails than there were in years past.
And that just wasn’t acceptable to Tim Wong.
Wong is an aquatic biologist working at the California Academy of Sciences, but his love for animals extends out of the water, too.
As a child, he was always fascinated with butterflies, and started raising them at home. And even if you’re not a butterfly fan, watching them transform from caterpillar to winged insect is pretty magical.
In 2012, Wongdecided to try and boost the population of the pipevine swallowtail. After learning of their dwindling numbers, he made it his personal mission to bring them back to his city.
Check out how he did it below, and the next time you see a butterfly, take a moment to enjoy its beauty!
[H/T: TreeHugger, Vox]
Tim Wong lives in San Fransisco, and while he works as an aquatic biologist, he loves all kinds of animals, especially butterflies and moths as you can see.
As such a fan, he was dismayed to learn that this butterfly, the California pipevine swallowtail, was becoming rarer and rarer as its habitat became increasingly threatened by urban development.
The pipevine swallowtail is considered one of the most beautiful butterflies, and it’s easy to see why!
So in 2012,decided to chip in and help bring the butterflies back to San Francisco.
Wong started raising butterflies as a kid, after his class at school raised some one spring, so he already knew what to do.
The butterflies were housed here, in Wong’s beautiful, enclosed greenhouse. That way, they could have plenty of nectar while still remaining safe from predators.
And he documented the whole process. That process, by the way, is not a quick one, and the butterflies and caterpillars require care and attention.
This photo shows the flowers they like to eat and are named for (California pipevines), the red eggs, the black and orange-spotted caterpillars, and an adult butterfly.
Oh, and he’s definitely not afraid to get up close and personal.
At the start of his project, Wong collected 20 caterpillars and brought them home to the greenhouse, where they liked to explore and feed together.
After about four weeks of nonstop leaf-munching, the caterpillars pupate. Interestingly, they can stay in the chrysalis for as little as two weeks or as long as two years.
And when they come out, they look absolutely stunning.
Here, Wong shows off several generations of swallowtails, from eggs to a mature adult. It’s a pretty amazing transformation.
But not only is Wong’s project fascinating to watch, it’s also making an actual difference in the local ecosystem.
Since starting this project, he estimates that he has bred thousands of swallowtails, many of which were transported to the Botanical Garden.
His is the first butterfly repopulation project to succeed in San Francisco since the 1980s, and he did it all himself, right in his backyard!
It’s also shown that to keep a species healthy, their habitat must be conserved. Wong found this by carefully maintaining the greenhouse, keeping it full of the California pipevine plant that these butterflies love so much.
And his project has been very popular with locals as well as people from all over the country. Here’s some beautiful artwork from a fan.
For a while, Wong even put out his own T-shirt with an original design of the butterflies’ life cycle. Unfortunately, they’re no longer available.
When he’s not tending to his swallowtails, Wong can be found caring for the animals in the California Academy of Science’s museum, like these Javanese cownose stingrays.
His other pals at the museum include an albino alligator and an octopus.
But at home, Wong is still tending to his butterflies. In the four years that he’s been raising them, he says he sees more and more each year.
“That’s a good sign that our efforts are working!” he says.
And it goes to show that even in a big world, one person really can make a difference with enough dedication.
Of course, raising an entire species in your backyard isn’t for everyone, and requires a lot of time and knowledge.
If you’d like to chip in in a different way, plant local flora in your yard to encourage native butterflies.
You can also donate to local environmental organizations to ensure you local habitats stay safe.
SHARE this amazing story of how one man brought back the butterflies with your friends!
Read more: http://www.littlethings.com/tim-wong-and-the-pipevine-swallowtails/