Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Butterfly Yurts

Mary Jo and Vincent check out Larvaland

I'm just back from spending a day at the Oregon Zoo. What an incredibly productive day this has been. It's been scales falling from the eyes, new insights, changing the way we'll be doing a lot of things type productive.

The purpose of our visit was to meet with Mary Jo, a keeper at the Oregon Zoo. She has been running the endangered butterfly recovery program at the zoo. We wanted to see what they are doing, especially how they are keeping caterpillars alive over the winter. One of the species that they work with is the endangered Oregon Silverspot, which is a close relative of a species we work with, the Regal Fritillary.

Taylor's Checkerspot Larvae in a yogurt container

The larvae will spend the winter outdoors under these flower pots

Our first stop was larva land. This is where Mary Jo winters caterpillars of the Taylors Checkerspot, another endangered species. The larvae are in crumpled paper towels inside of yogurt containers. The yogurt containers are placed on the catch tray from a large terrra cotta flowerpot. A square of gauze is stuck in the flower pot's drainhole, and the flowerpot is used to cover the whole thing. I knew immediately that this method holds great promise for keeping our swamp metalmarks over the winter.

Oregon Silverspot eggs with newly hatched larvae that have crawled onto the yurt.
The white filter paper helps keep everything moist but not wet.

Silverspot larvae in a yurt

Mary Jo's lab is a very impressive operation. They process large numbers of larvae, and keep meticulous records. They are able to store the Silverspot larvae over the winter in the refrigerator by using yurts. Yurts are small pieces of corregated cardboard that are sterilized and placed in pertri dishes with Silverspot eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat their eggshells, then wander over to the yurts. They sit in the grooves of the carboard. The bits of cardboars are refrigerated over the winter in special cages. In the spring, they are warmed up and the larvae are offered food. They complete their development and are released into the field. We can do this.

Mary Jo (l) with another keeper and a kinkajou

Porcupine, eating

Me with a Humboldt Penguin

We haven't even visited Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle yet, but already we know that we will be returning home with all kinds of new ideas and techniques. It wasn't all serious technical discussions, either. I got to feed a porcupine, meet a kinkajou, and pet a Humboldt penguin. Today gets a 10.

4,000 Eggs of the endangered Oregon Silverspot

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At 05:16, Blogger Lemuel said...

Ah, the "porky" stole my heart!

At 06:10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're the one with the camera around your neck, right?

At 07:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great job you have.

At 09:26, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Lem- I got to have in person meetings with several zoo animals. The porky was very cute- but the only one that I didn't pet.

Pablo- That's right. I left my tuxedo at home this trip.

Sandy- I feel very fortunate that way.

At 10:49, Blogger robin andrea said...

That does look like one incredibly good day. Love that photo of you and the penguin. Fantastic.

At 12:20, Blogger R.Powers said...

The penguin shot is a keeper.

At 14:46, Blogger rodger said...

I have to agree...the penguin shot is great.

How appropriate that they line the porcupine cage with the Oregonian. That's the only reason I would have a subscription.

At 17:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is such a delight. With all the mess in the news stories, it is so nice to spend a few minutes with you in larvaland, learning about butterfly yurts.

You lead a fascinating life.

At 17:59, Blogger cedrorum said...

Wow, what a great trip. I love the "high" tech equipment they are using (terra cotta pots and such). And you got to see all those cool animals besides what you were really there for. I want to go with you next time.

At 19:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff, Doug!
regards -- ted

At 23:42, Blogger Amila Suwa said...

Hi Doug, I am sure you will be able to implement some of those new tricks to good effect.

I too like the Penguine shot.

At 16:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had NO idea this was going on at our little zoo...........I have more respect for them now. You sure have a short quick trip to Seattle if you're coming back tonight........ at least it ain't raining.

At 22:00, Blogger nina at Nature Remains. said...

What a great project.

What a sweet, prickly fella!

At 22:26, Blogger Ur-spo said...

how exciting for you in so many ways.
I liked the penguin the best too.

At 07:15, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Very cool. I love Oregon - my brother is out there! I'm a big fan of yurts too!

At 08:06, Blogger Will said...

Doug, the butterfly yurts were fascinating to me. These days anybody who works to foster endangered species recovery has my full support and admiration.

Oh, the shot of you and the penquin goes right into my "Blogger pictures" file--just delightful!

At 15:51, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Robin and FC- I had so much fun with the penguin. I knew that I needed a photo with him for the blog.

Rodger- I'm not familiar with the journalistic style of the Oregonian, but I did note iits prominence in the photo. I'm here at the airport awaiting boarding. So great to see you both.

Sylvia- Welcome to the Tapestry. Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

cedrorum- I like the "high tech" aspect of this as well. I referred to Mary Jo as the queen of duct tape and bailing wire and meant that as high praise.

Ted- thanks. Good luck with your tiger beetle trip.

Gallicissa- I can't wait to get home to implement some of this.

Mark- It's a pretty impressive progam. I have a lot of respect for both Oregon and Woodland Park in their implementation of the project.

Nina- Thanks. Welcome to the Tapestry.

Spo- It was exciting. The weekend included lots of gossip about you.

Dave- There are lots of yurts in my future.

Will- Thanks. Glad you enjoyed.

At 09:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How lucky of you, I have yet to meet a porcupine or a penguin!


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