Q is for Quino Checkerspot Butterfly
This is a rare good news story on the sustainability front – that of the 3 cm quino checkerspot butterfly, here photographed by Adam Braziel:
Adam isn’t sure if this is the quino or the Wright’s checkerspot, but after making my eyes go whizzy looking at both species’ photos, Wright’s checkerspot is a different species altogether, not a subspecies of Edith’s checkerspot, (as is the quino) and the quino is less than half the size of the Wright’s, so my bet’s on the quino. In any case, this is what a quino checkerspot looks like – gorgeous!
The quino butterfly lives in southern California, and over the last 100 years has suffered a devastating loss of population, due to climate change (warming, so that its food plant, a type of plantain, could not grow), agricultural and urban development, the introduction of non-native grasses, fire suppression and grazing.
It declined to the extent of being present only in two small areas, and it is listed comprehensively on most species endangered lists – which is how I found it.
Scientists were concerned for its survival, including Professor Camille Parmesan of the Marine Sciences Institute at Plymouth University. She suggested in 2008 that the butterfly would be a good candidate for ‘assisted colonisation’, which is where humans intervene and help a species by moving it to a more suitable area.
BUT! To the amazement of scientists, the butterfly upped and moved itself to an area east of Los Angeles, and changed the food it feeds on, the first butterfly known to change its habits so comprehensively and rapidly.
Unfortunately most of the evidence is in the other direction, but this does give hope that at least some other insect species will be able to cope with the vagaries of climate change – there was an area for the quino checkerspot to go to avoid extinction, and a very important part of butterfly conservation is making ‘corridors’ – conserving and linking unspoiled land so that there is somewhere for our endangered insect species to move to.
Fight for your green spaces – insect species, butterflies and bees, pollinate our flowers, pollinate our crops, they are the essence of the reproduction of what sustains us.
we are the movements
of the music
that the petal
we are pollen
and the nectar,
we are flowers
© Liz Brownlee
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Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved, not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.