On Monday, 30 regal fritillary butterflies were released in a nature preserve just south of Chicago.
I'm fascinated by a couple things with this.
First that people would focus on saving a fringe butterfly, albeit a beautiful one. Second that they would come up with such an innovative way to have them survive.
Doug Taron (below) was the scientist from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on the North Side who spearheded the effort. The breakthrough was having the larvae survive on the roof of the museum to have the full impact of our wonderful winters.
Here's the word from the Notebaert:
Regal Butterfly Flies Again
Nature Museum Scientists Release Threatened Regal Fritillary Butterfly
Back to Illinois Prairieland
CHICAGO - (July 12, 2010) -Scientists from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum today released 30 Regal Fritillary butterflies in the Paintbrush Prairie Nature Preserve, one of the Indian Boundary Prairies just south of Chicago. In Illinois, the Regal Fritillary is classified as a threatened species as a result of dramatic population decline due to habitat destruction east of the Mississippi River.
Doug Taron, PhD, the Nature Museum's curator of biology and vice president of conservation and research, has long dreamed of reversing the decline of the Regal Fritillary butterfly in the region. After years of toil, Taron and Nature Museum colleague Vincent Olivares, director of arthropod conservation, have achieved a major breakthrough.
"It was an amazing moment when we released this rare butterfly back to the prairies where it belongs," Taron said. "We will take great pride in watching the Regal Fritillary repopulate in its natural environment."
For the past three years, Taron and Olivares have struggled with the challenge of getting the fragile, tiny larvae to survive the winter. This year, they put the larvae in covered cages on the Nature Museum's green roof to give them the full impact of the winter cold and better mimic their natural habitat
When spring arrived, they were ecstatic that 250 caterpillars survived; this is by far the best survival rate Taron and Olivares have seen. By early June, they were close to transforming from caterpillars into the beautiful butterflies they will become. "They're pupating like mad," Taron said.
The Nature Museum, the urban gateway to nature and science, has long been recognized as a leader in conservation and nature restoration in Illinois. Through its collections, educational programs and exhibits, the Museum connects people with nature in an urban setting.
"Nature Museum scientists have made it possible for people to appreciate the wonder of this threatened butterfly out in the heart of nature," said Deborah Lahey, the Nature Museum's chief executive officer. "Not only can people see butterflies in our Haven or through our exhibits like Sanctuary, but they should know that we are working to preserve the natural world as well."
The Regal Fritillary is a large orange and black butterfly that looks similar to the Monarch, but the white spots on its hind wings set it apart. Thanks to the hard work of the Nature Museum scientists, the Regal Fritillary will once again bring its unique beauty to the urban ecosystem.