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Man Repopulates a Disappearing Species of Butterfly in His Own Backyard




  • The Pipevine Swallowtail started to disappear during the constant urbanization of the Northern California area in the early 1900s
  • Tim Wong found the food source in the botanical garden, took it home, and let it grow on his backyard
  • He was able to repopulate the butterflies and even donated caterpillars to the botanical garden

With its iridescent blue-colored wings, the Pipevine Swallowtail is indeed one of the most beautiful species of butterflies. Collectors consider it as one of the most important species that can be found in Northern California.

It thrived in San Francisco and the Bay Area for centuries, but started to disappear during the constant urbanization of the area in the early 1900s.

The chances of spotting one became rare.

An aquatic biologist from Academy of Sciences in California made it his mission to increase the population of this butterfly species.

In 2012, Tim Wong started his search for the California pipevine, the sole source of food for the Pipevine Swallowtail.

When the plant disappeared years ago, so did the butterflies. Wong finally found the plant in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. He was allowed to take few clippings of the plant.

He then propagated the plant on the backyard of his home.

The biologist watered, tended, and weeded the plant until he eventually created a beautiful backyard paradise for it.

To protect the insect and allow it to mate in perfect outside environmental conditions, Wong built a big screen enclosure in his backyard.

The enclosure also serves a protection from predators. This increases the butterflies’ chances for mating. It will also give Wong the environment to study and observe the insects and understand better what the females look for when it comes to ideal host plants.

Next, Wong scouted for around 20 caterpillars from several properties around the city. With the owners’ permission, he collected them and transported them to his backyard to set loose.

Six weeks after, these turned into butterflies and laid eggs on the stems of the pipevine plants.

The insects then started multiplying exponentially after a few generations.

He was able to produce so much more butterflies that he donated some of the caterpillars to the Botanical Gardens, where he got the food source.

Some conservationists were able to repopulate the Pipevine Swallowtail in Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties, Wong was the primary who attempted and the only one successful in doing it around San Francisco. He attributed his success to the lovely habitat he created, which contains no herbicides or pesticides.

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