(HEATHER CALLAGHAN) During the day, Tim Wong is all about water life as an aquatic biologist. But when he changes into his cape at the end of his shift, he transforms into an incredible cultivator of butterflies.
Tending to butterflies was his lifelong hobby – who knew that his backyard conservationism would save a population that vanished from San Francisco?
The pipevine swallowtail – with its breathtaking shades of blue, black and green – isn’t officially endangered, although a major concern broke out when the insect suddenly started rapturing out of California as development efforts multiplied. In fact, the swallowtail vanished so entirely from San Francisco, that Wong had to collect caterpillars from private residencies in vegetative areas in order to start his project.
While we can’t practically stop paradise from being paved over – Wong shows that with just a little dedicated effort, the ecosystem can bounce back.
When he first learned of the predicament of the pipevine swallowtail, the 28-year-old swooped in to help by creating a screened backyard enclosure with ideal environmental conditions for the insect.
He filled it with specific plants that the insects like to feed on. Then, he gathered a group of 20 different pipevine swallowtail caterpillars from nearby areas. As he carefully nursed the small tribe of precious insects, their numbers began to quickly multiply.
Fast forward some years, and the “DIY butterfly breeder” arrives at the San Francisco Botanical Garden’s “California Native” exhibit with a weekly bounty of dozens of caterpillars.
Because of one man’s efforts, pipeline swallowtail butterflies repopulated San Francisco for the first time in literal decades.
Can we help butterflies get repopulated? Find out by keeping track of Wong as the “Butterfly Whisperer” on Instagram.