Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory working to reintroduce an endangered species into the wild

The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is helping to reintroduce an endangered species called the Mottled Duskywing Butterfly.

The rare species was first listed as endangered in 2012.

The conservatory has joined forces with other local partners to start the Ontario Butterfly Species at Risk Recovery Team.

“The Mottled Duskywing is the only currently endangered butterfly in Ontario,” said Ryan Norris, a University of Guelph professor and lead on the recovery team. “The host plant that they need to raise their young on is rare.”

This is the third year of the project that involved capturing about two dozen female founders in Hastings County.

“And from those females, you were able to get 2,500 eggs,” said Adrienne Brewster, executive director at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.

Now hundreds of Mottled Dustywings are at a special lab at the Cambridge conservatory, in various stages of its life cycle.

“That entire duration can be anywhere from five to six weeks from egg to adult,” said Brewster.

The butterflies are kept away from the public to keep them protected and are monitored often.

“We also hand feed them to make sure they are sustained properly, to make sure they survive while they’re in the lab,” Brewster said.

This summer the team started releasing the butterflies into the wild at Pinery Provincial Park, north of Sarnia.

“We anticipate being able to release about just over 500 at Pinery Provincial Park and will be releasing about 600 or more to the original site where we took the female founders from,” said Brewster.

Now it’s a matter of waiting to see if the butterflies survive in their new environment once they are released.

“We do daily monitoring of the individuals that we released,” said Norris.

The goal is to have the Mottled Duskywing Butterfly delisted and no longer considered an endangered species. Experts admit it could take five to 10 years for that to happen, but the team is confident their hard work will pay off.