Baltimore butterflies relocate to Fermilab
Conservationalists from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum transfer caterpillars onto turtlehead plants at Fermilab.
Conservationists from the Chicago Academy of Science's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park released a new species of butterflies, the Baltimore checkerspot, Monday, Aug. 31, into Fermilab's westside prairies.
TD's Tom Peterson and the Chicago museum staff have been working to conserve and expand butterfly populations in northern Illinois. The nature museum donated more than 100 caterpillars, 1/4 to 3/8 millimeter long, in hopes that the species will gain a foothold at the laboratory.
"This is a way to help keep them off the endangered list," said Doug Taron, curator of biology at the museum.
The Baltimore checkerspots exist in only 15 locations across the Chicagoland region of Kane, Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake and McHenry counties.
Fermilab is one of the few places that have the native wetland plants needed to sustain the non-migratory species. Fermilab has been planting the butterflies' favorite turtlehead plants as part of the laboratory's native prairie restoration program.
Using tiny paint brushes, the caterpillars were laid on plant heads where they will form cocoons. Black and orange winged adults should emerge next summer.
The donation of a new type of butterfly to add to the 55 species at Fermilab was a thank you of sorts to the laboratory for helping the nature museum.
Last year, Fermilab collected about a dozen pregnant purplish copper butterflies and donated them to the museum so that the museum could breed the rare species. That allowed for conservationists to put 2,000 larvae in a Lake County forest preserve.
A Baltimore checkerspot butterfly.
-- Tona Kunz