There have been at least two releases of the Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly this month. On March 6, the butterfly returned to Friendship Park in San Pedro. It was last seen at the park in 1981 and this is the first time there has been a release there. On March 18, there was a release at the Linden H. Chandler Preserve on Palos Verdes which is described in the video above. Once again, the releases were overseen by Jana Johnson and her students from Moorpark College where a captive breeding program has been going on for ten years.
Apparently at the Chandler site, there was one male butterfly whose antics earned him the name, Houdini. According to one observer:
One particular butterfly charmed all. After eclosing at Moorpark, he tried real hard to escape and successfully got out of the first level cage. The staff decided to reward his escape efforts by giving him a name, Houdini, and sending him out for release. Houdini was very active in his plastic cup, but once released all he did was sit on an Encelia flower. But that was OK, because we all got great photos of him. Check out the image of Houdini that I took with my cell phone! --Ann Dalkey
It is hoped that the released butterflies, who will only live 10 days, will mate and lay lots of eggs. The hatched eggs will go through the caterpillar and pupal stages, but the adult butterflies won't be seen until next year, possibly in late February of 2011.
Ann Dalkey sent me the following information on the history of the Butterfly Project and gives credit to all the agencies involved.
The Palos Verdes blue butterfly (PVPB) was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in 1994 at the Defense Fuel Supply Point (DFSP), a US military base located in San Pedro. Since that discovery, the wild population has been surveyed yearly and has ranged from 30 to 282 individuals, averaging about 200 during the past 6 years. This is too small of a population to survive on its own, so a consortium of organizations has since worked hard to increase the number of the butterflies. The US military has provide space for raising the host plants (rattle pod and deerweed), culturing the butterfly, and conserving habitat on the base. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (PVPLC) runs the native plant nursery and maintains and expands PVB habitat. The Urban Wildlands is responsible for the surveying of the wild population and culturing of the captive population, known as the Butterfly Project. Two captive populations exist, one at the military base and the second, established in 2007, at Moorpark College. Under the leadership of Jana Johnson, the captive population has increased significantly, enabling the team to release captive individuals into the wild. The first such release occurred in 2008 at the Defense Fuel Supply Point. Then additional releases at the DFSP and the Linden H. Chandler Preserve took place in 2009. This year, 2010, releases have been conducted at a new place, Friendship Park, and also the Chandler Preserve. PVPLC is working hard to provide additional butterfly habitat throughout the preserves on the PV Peninsula. And, with Jana’s wonderful Butterfly Project, we look forward to seeing more of these cute butterflies throughout the Peninsula.