How one man repopulated a rare butterfly species in his backyard
It begins its life as a tiny red egg, hatches into an enormous orange-speckled caterpillar, and then — after a gestation period of up to two years — emerges as an iridescent blue beauty. Brimming with oceanic tones, the creature’s wings are considered by collectors to be some of the most magnificent in North America.
The 28-year-old Tim Wong devotes the bulk of his free time to raising butterflies, a hobby he picked up as a kid.
He researched the butterfly and learned that when in caterpillar form, it only feeds on one plant: the California pipevine (Aristolochia californica), an equivalently rare flora in the city.
When the eggs hatch and a new cycle of life begins, Wong raises the caterpillars at home, then brings them back to the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s “California Native” exhibit.
“Each year since 2012, we’ve seen more butterflies surviving in the garden, flying around, laying eggs, successfully pupating, and emerge the following year,” he says. “That’s a good sign that our efforts are working!”