Guide To Catch a Butterfly

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It was of course an impossible feat. The farm breeds butterflies note: Not because the climate is good or anything, although I suppose it is, but for a tourist attraction. It only takes 10 days for the dozens of eggs planted in a tree to hatch into a catepillar.

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After two to five weeks, the catepillar pupates into a cacoon where it stays for one to two weeks before becoming a butterfly. Or, put your finger in front of a butterfly at rest and chances are it will climb on to your hand for a snack.


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I know three languages, the third being a tribal tongue less than one percent of the world speaks. I read a lot. If you want to catch wild butterflies, you'll need a net. You can purchase a good butterfly net or make one. The net should be at least 24 inches deep, allowing you to trap a butterfly in the deep end of the net without harming it.

How to catch a butterfly

Don't buy a cheap "kids" net, as they will usually damage the butterfly. When in flight, monarchs are wary and difficult to catch. It's best to locate them feeding on flowers or while they are on the roosts late in the day or early in the morning. Thanks to historical records and preserved museum specimens, they found that of 55 native butterfly species known to have fluttered about the peaks, valleys and arroyos of the park in the early twentieth century, ten of them — 18 percent — had disappeared by They apparently vanished, without a trace.

Some might be surprised that Los Angeles was once and still is home to so many native butterflies. The city, equally famous for its film industry and for its traffic, is also part of a global biodiversity hotspot called the California Floristic Province. What is perhaps less surprising is that a century of climate change and increasing urban development has been associated with a loss of nearly one in five native butterfly species from the park.

Long is now extending that study beyond Griffith Park to the rest of the Santa Monica Mountains, a range characterised by a mosaic of federal, state, county, and city governed public lands and private properties, punctuated by two major highways and lots of roads. By surveying a series of sites along the remainder of the mountain range approximately every three weeks, Long aims to find out which butterflies are present now, and compare her data both to information collected nearly a century ago and to the Griffith Park study.

In the world of butterflies, monarchs are like the giant pandas: they're well known, charismatic critters. Monarch butterflies do migrate through California — there's a population west of the Rocky Mountains that migrates, though not quite as impressively as those that fly from Mexico to Canada and back — but most of the critters I immediately identified as monarchs were actually painted ladies.


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It's a reasonable mistake to make: painted ladies are excellent monarch mimics. Everybody we met walking around the park — who immediately sized us as lepidopterists butterfly researchers thanks to our giant nets — had something to say about the monarchs. But most of the butterflies we observed — and all the ones we netted — were others.

There were a handful of painted ladies, plenty of California sisters, and also tiger swallowtails, pale swallowtails, red admirals, white checkered-skippers and at least one mournful duskywing. Biodiversity hotspot indeed.

How can I catch a butterfly or moth? | The Children's Butterfly Site

Our second site was a trail in Leo Carillo State Park. After several successful captures and lots of flailing about, Long encouraged me to take a swing. The idea was possibly to convince me how difficult it is to successfully catch a butterfly, so that I'd judge her own flailing about less critically. Unlike other types of fieldwork, butterfly research hasn't benefited from all that much innovation in recent decades.

The lightest of GPS trackers is still too heavy for even the biggest of butterflies. Camera traps are useless for detecting them. The lepidopterist's toolkit doesn't look all that different from a century ago: hiking boots, binoculars, notepad, butterfly net. Researchers like Long can now extract their DNA to rapidly determine the genetic makeup of each population of butterflies in each canyon along the mountain range. But first you have to catch one. I spotted a California sister flying along the hiking trail only a couple feet off the ground.

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I readied my net, holding it in both hands like a Klingon Bat'leth , ready to strike. The metal pole felt cool between my hands. The goal, as I understood it, was to snap the pole towards the butterfly. It reminded me more of throwing a Frisbee than of swinging a baseball bat. Beads of sweat collected on my forehead. The rest of the world melted away, and it was just me, my net and the butterfly.