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News

Bringing Butterflies Back From the Brink

Female Taylor's Checkerspot shortly after release in BC Parks Butterfly Reserve. Photo: A. Fyson

Female Taylor’s Checkerspot seeks nectar shortly after release in BC Parks Denman Island Butterfly Reserve. Photo: A. Fyson

Female Checkerspot from the TCCBF laying eggs in the Butterfly Reserve. Photo: A. Fyson

Female Checkerspot from the TC Conservation Breeding Facility laying eggs in the Butterfly Reserve. Photo: A. Fyson

The last known population of Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies in Canada just got a big boost with a lot of help from their friends. Nearly 60 adults and more than 280 larvae from the Taylor’s Checkerspot Conservation Breeding Facility (TCCBF) were recently released in the BC Parks Butterfly Reserve on the north end of Denman Island. And as a bonus, at least three newly released females laid eggs. This is a much-needed augmentation of the wild Checkerspot population on Denman that has declined rapidly from several thousand to fewer than 100 counted during surveys in recent years.

Checkerspot eggs laid in the BC Parks Denman Butterfly Reserve.

Fresh Checkerspot eggs. Photo: A. Fyson

The butterflies were carefully tended at the TCCBF by manager Peter Karsten, his summer assistant Savannah Salas, and numerous community volunteers. Adults were weighed, marked (so that individuals can be identified and monitored), hand-fed, and bred. More than 1,000 eggs were collected for the breeding program next year. Then Andrew Fyson and John Mills selected sites in the Butterfly Reserve with appropriate food plants, and gently released the butterflies over several days. Andrew reported that they “were excited to observe 3 bred, newly released females laying eggs” – something very few people have witnessed.

Newly released female Checkerspot seeking nectar. The blue spot on her wing allows researchers to track and identify her. Photo: A. Fyson

The blue spot on this female’s wing was added to help monitors to identify her. Photo: A. Fyson

Butterfly conservation breeding and releases are important components of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project. It’s a cooperative venture that involves many partners and supporters: community volunteers, BC Ministry of Environment, BC Parks, Wildlife Preservation Canada, TCCBF staff, contractors, Denman Conservancy Association, Environment Canada, and the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team.

Taylor's Checkerspot Butterflies shortly after release from the Conservation Breeding Facility.

Hopefully Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies will become a common sight again in their former range. Photo: A. Fyson

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