Locally extinct butterflies are fluttering again in San Francisco’s Presidio

Here’s an encouraging news story about an increase in butterflies.

The colorful variable checkerspot butterfly, missing from the park since the 1970s, is thriving there again, thanks to a project started in 2017 by wildlife managers at the Presidio Trust. 

The butterflies left the area in the mid-70s due to loss of habitat. The species’ caterpillars require  specific native plants to survive; in this case, the checkerspot’s host flora is the California bee plant and sticky monkey flower. These plants were lost as urban development crept into the park, resulting in the species’ local extinction nearly 50 years ago. 

Restoration of these plants and other coastal scrub in the park over the last 20 years created a welcoming habitat for the checkerspot, but the butterflies needed some help getting home. 

“This butterfly cannot fly very far, the caterpillars cannot crawl very far, the nearest population of these butterflies is very far away … It takes human effort to bring it back,” wildlife ecologist Jonathan Young explained in a Presidio Trust video on the project. 

More info here.

Thanks to Belle from the Bay Area for alerting me to this story.

Summer Plans

This summer, let’s go visit these old and new places for butterfly joy.

North Meadow Butterfly Garden in Central Park. My favorite frequent oasis!

The Conservatory Garden in Central Park.

Deen Slope, Central Park.

Governors Island.

Bronx Zoo

New York Botanical Garden, The Native Plant Garden.

Wave Hill in Riverdale, The Bronx.

The Beverly E. Smith Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden at the Lenoir Nature Preserve in Yonkers, NY.

Planting Fields in Oyster Bay, NY.

Old Westbury on Long Island.

And more!

Central Park and Butterflies

This recent article, From Central Park to Central Mexico: The Great Monarch Butterfly Migration, discussed the part Central Park plays in the great monarch butterfly migration.

Although this article, published March 3rd, is full of facts and insights that I already know, I was happy to be reminded about Deen Slope. This area, which the Conservancy opened in 2017, is a native meadow that provides food and shelter to essential pollinator species in the Park. It is located near the Balto Statue, East of Sheep Meadow around 66th Street. It is said to be “a walk through vibrant blooms and secluded trails.”

Looking forward to summer sightings.

A rustic bench surrounded by Dene Slope, with the New York City skyline in the background

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin

Today  Feb. 12, is Darwin Day, an international day of celebration commemorating the birth of Charles Darwin and his contributions to science. Born February 12, 1809, he shares his birthday with Abraham Lincoln.

Charles Darwin considered this butterfly one of the most beautiful. Its name is Asterope Leprieuri, also called Leprieur’s Glory. It is found from Colombia to Brazil and Bolivia. The species is named after François Mathias René Leprieur, a renowned French pharmacist and naturalist.  Throughout his career, he collected specimens in the fields of entomology, ichthyology and botany.

Where do butterflies go in winter?

In winter, most species enter a dormant phase. This can be as an egg, larva, pupa or adult insect. The majority of butterflies and moths overwinter in the larval stage, with pupae being the next most common choice, followed by eggs and adults.

An alternative evolutionary strategy, employed by Painted Lady butterflies and Monarchs, is to avoid winter conditions completely by migrating to warmer parts of the world.

More info at Butterfly Conservation site from the U.K.

Embroidered Butterflies

In a recent article, Best of 2020: The Most Imaginative Embroidery Art of the Year, these butterflies by Georgie Emery were featured.

Their execution is exquisite but they fall victim to an ongoing dilemma: How to capture butterfly delicacy in art.

Emillie Ferris succeeds with her Amanita Muscaria mushroom, but her American Lady Butterfly is static.

Although Steph Arnold’s butterflies are also too heavy, the entire piece gives a feeling of joyous movement.

Andy Warhol’s painting, Happy Butterfly Days, conquers the challenge of how to depict butterflies in art while paying tribute to their lightness.