Butterfly monitoring in Limestone Canyon, where Catherine and her team of dedicated volunteers visit on a monthly basis, began years ago and includes data from as early as 2012. This abundance of data from over the years has shown a decline in butterfly populations, especially following recent wildfires in Limestone Canyon. During their monthly patrol, the volunteers are split into different groups that visit four separate routes, observing and recording the number of butterflies and flowering plants that are visible.
The types of habitats and flowering plants are important to note as butterflies rely upon two different types of plants throughout their lifetime. Larval/host plants are needed by caterpillars for growth and development and nectar plants are needed by adult butterflies as food sources. As the number of larval/host plants and flowering nectar plants can be directly correlated with the number of butterflies that are found, IRC’s Restoration and Enhancement team is currently working towards planting a variety of plant species to further study their effect on butterfly populations.
Butterfly monitoring is a long-term process and can take years to see trends, but the results from recent monitoring have shown that, though there’s been far less diversity among species, overall populations have seemed to bounce back since the Limestone Canyon fire. Recent data has also shown that there has been a shift in something known as the flight period for adult butterflies. With flowers blooming earlier than normal, adult butterflies are taking flight earlier than usual. This early flight period could potentially throw the wildlife cycle out of sync, affecting the birds that rely on feeding their young with larvae and caterpillars, and could have possibly larger effects.
This project is an ongoing effort, and we hope to continue seeing positive results from IRC’s team and volunteers’ efforts. To follow progress and learn more about habitat restoration, visit IRConservancy.org, LetsGoOutside.org or follow the Landmarks on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.