One Man Has Single-Handedly Repopulated A Rare Butterfly Species Using His Backyard

February 20, 2017

Tim Wong works as an aquatic biologist during the day, but over the past four years he has spent his free time on another scientific mission: repopulating San Francisco's rare California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly population.

butterfly whisperer
Credit: Tim Wong / Instagram

Wong discovered when the California Pipevine Swallowtail is a caterpillar, it only eats the California pipevine plant. But those plants were also rare in San Francisco. Wong finally found the plant at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, and they let him take some clippings home.

From there, Wong built a large screen enclosure that would allow the butterflies to mate in natural conditions and allow him to observe precisely what they needed.

butterfly whisperer
Credit: Tim Wong / Instagram

Wong gathered a group of 20 different pipevine swallowtail caterpillars from nearby areas. As he carefully nursed the small tribe of insects, their numbers began to quickly multiply.

butterfly whisperer
Credit: Tim Wong / Instagram

Now years later, the butterfly breeder brings dozens of caterpillars to the San Francisco Botanical Garden's "California Native" exhibit every week — and thanks to Wong's efforts, the pipevine swallowtail has been successfully repopulated in the city for the first time in decades.

butterfly whisperer
Credit: Tim Wong / Instagram

"We've seen more butterflies surviving in the garden, flying around, laying eggs, successfully pupating, and emerge the following year," Wong told Vox. "That's a good sign that our efforts are working!"

butterfly whisperer
Credit: Tim Wong / Instagram

Though backyard conservation isn't his professional forte, Wong has claimed — and earned — the lofty mantle of "Butterfly Whisperer" on Instagram.

butterfly whisperer
Credit: Tim Wong / Instagram

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