This magnificent blue butterfly is one of the rarest and one of the most important species of butterfly for collectors in the world. It is called the pipevine swallowtail of California and it is only found in that state.

Before the 20th century, this butterfly lived in peace in this area, but with the years more and more people urbanized the area and this magnificent species started to disappear. Nowadays it has become a sight only a few people have seen.

One man had a goal to make this beautiful butterfly a common sight in California again, and it seems like he’s onto something really promising. That is Tim Wong, a biologist at the Academy of Sciences in the state of California.

He started his search for this butterfly back in 2012. His first mission was to find the plant that was the only food of this species, but it had disappeared as well. Luckily, a botanical garden in San Francisco had this plant and they allowed him to take some clippings which he could plant in his garden.


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He built a closely monitored and controlled enclosure in his yard where he had the perfect temperature, amount of airflow and sunlight for the butterflies to allow them to mate. He tended to the plants very meticulously, caring for them as if they were his kids until they grew and created a little paradise which would be the perfect home for the lost pipevine butterfly.

His unique enclosure will also protect the butterfly from any predators it might have in the real world which will drastically help with mating and reproducing. At the same time, it will serve as a lab for studying the not so known mating principles and general lifecycle of this rare specimen.

After everything has been prepared, Tim went on a search for the butterfly’s caterpillars across the state. He found around twenty of them outside of the populated zones where there is more nature. He then carefully transported them to his yard and set them free in the enclosure to mate, feed and evolve.

After 6 weeks, the caterpillars had all turned into magnificent blue butterflies and the females had already started laying red eggs under the pipevine plant’s leaves and stems.

Tim’s plan was successful as the butterflies started to reproduce and multiply very fast. After his enclosure felt a little bit too crowded he started donating some of the butterflies to the botanical garden that gave him the pipevine plants.


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In the beginning, Tim started donating around a hundred caterpillars each couple of months and after a while, that number became a thousand.

His mission to repopulate this beautiful butterfly in San Francisco was a great success, but other people like him did the same thing in some other counties of California too. Also, it is noted that in the 1980s there was another attempt to reintroduce this butterfly in San Francisco by a woman named Barbara Deutsch who released around 500 caterpillars but it turned out to be unsuccessful.

Tim said that his success was due to the perfect habitat he created without the use of any pesticides or herbicides and encourages anyone who has a backyard to try to do something good for nature.

Source/photos: Tim Wong