You made it happen - they have arrived!

These caterpillars will become Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies. Once common in Garry Oak ecosystems, this butterfly became endangered as most of its habitat was destroyed. By the early 2000’s it was thought to be permanently lost from Canada. In 2005, however, a previously unknown population was discovered in a recent clearcut on Denman Island. For a few years, the population was stable, but as the forest regenerated it began to decline. In 2014 fewer than 25 wild sightings were reported –   it was feared that the butterfly population was on the brink of dying out. Determined not to waste this lucky second chance to save the Taylor’s checkerspot, a group of local volunteers, provincial authorities, and Wildlife Preservation Canada teamed up to take action. From just 18 eggs gathered from the wild, we created a conservation breeding program –  that resulted in the release of 300 Taylor’s checkerspots into restored habitat within Denman Island Provincial Park last summer!

Taylor's checkerspot caterpillars.

Greater Vancouver Zoo - they're here!

Getting bigger every day.

And repopulating native spaces.

On Saturday April 2nd, our team took the caterpillars on a ferry from Denman Island to Greater Vancouver Zoo, where they were transferred to their new facilities. The butterflies should emerge in the next couple of weeks. At that time we will begin breeding, and collecting the resulting eggs to hatch and rear throughout the summer. 

 

This success led us to dream big. We’d like future releases on Denman Island to be even larger, and have identified other sites where we could reintroduce the species once habitat is restored.  Thankfully, the Greater Vancouver Zoo is offering greatly capacity in terms of space and staff support. And thanks to you, the caterpillars have arrived to begin the next step at restoring the butterflies to their native spaces. Already this spring, we’ve released nearly 1,300 conservation-bred Taylor’s checkerspot caterpillars into restored habitat.

The caterpillars were transferred from Denman Island to Greater Vancouver Zoo two days ahead of schedule. Typically Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly do not pupate until the end of April, however they began to pupate March 31, which necessitated the quick move. One little caterpillar even pupated on the ferry ride over!

Once at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, the caterpillars joined the other local conservation projects, the western painted turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. They are housed in small bins in groups of 10-15 until they pupate when they are transferred to a special container to emerge. This prevents the pupae from being trampled by their still active caterpillar cohort. Depending on weather the butterflies should emerge in the next couple of weeks. At that time we will begin breeding, introducing females at small groups of males and collecting the resulting eggs to hatch and rear throughout the summer. This species has a long winter diapause as instar 4-5 sized caterpillars and the young produced from these matings will be the ones that wake up for us in the spring of 2017! Read more about Canada’s species at risk that need your help.