It’s been an amazing year for Bay Checkerspot Butterfly (BCB) larvae this year. Numbers have increased 5-fold, ten-fold, even 20-fold for some of our long term research plots. After about a half dozen “down years”, it’s a welcome rebound. This little federally threatened butterfly that takes to the skies mid to late March every year and then disappears for another 11 months has helped ecologists understand the interaction of this species with an soil environment that is increasingly saturated with nitrogen from automobile exhaust.
Starting January, our crew at the Creekside Center for Earth Observation surveys the serpentinite blocks of Coyote Ridge and Tulare hill in search for BCB larva. Chief Scientist Stuart Weiss has been tracking larvae for almost 30 years now, often celebrating his birthday with the first adult checkerspot butterfly taking to the air. The larval survey process requires a sunny day, an awareness of one’s own shadow and an ability to spot a glimmer of orange in a field of emerging plants. This year we’re lucky enough to have a US Fish and Wildlife permit to transfer some of the larvae from Coyote Ridge to Edgewood, in hopes of restoring a population of BCB’s back in their old San Mateo stomping grounds. Here are some photos from three days of efforts.