A Single Mission Blue Butterfly on Twin Peaks

Aricia Icarioides Missionensis, Photo Copyright Joe O’Connor

If you are lucky, you might be able to see a couple of Mission Blue Butterflies on Twin Peaks within the next week. Since they don’t seem to survive on Twin Peaks, they are being imported from San Bruno Mountain, about seven miles away. This photo was taken by Joe O’Connor on May 2nd at about noon. The so-called “restored butterfly habitat” — which requires a dousing in toxic herbicides every four months to be maintained as a butterfly habitat — has not produced a continuing stable Mission Blue Butterfly population since it was begun many years ago. Every year, more pregnant butterflies are captured from San Bruno Mountain, and imported — few, if any, that we know of have ever survived to produce offspring the following year.

One is prompted to ask: How “natural” is something when you have to go to other places to import “natives” that then do not survive, leading you to import more. . . ad infinitum?”

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5 Responses to A Single Mission Blue Butterfly on Twin Peaks

  1. MillionTrees says:

    The San Francisco Chronicle reported on April 2nd that an endangered butterfly (Langes metalmark) is being harmed by pesticides used at the Antioch Dunes, the only location where it is known to exist. Reproduction rates are said to be reduced by one-third by these pesticides. This report was based on a scientific study..http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/02/BAUU1NR4OH.DTL

    Yet, the same pesticides are used by the misnamed Natural Areas Program on Twin Peaks where they have been trying for years to reintroduce an endangered butterfly, the Mission Blue. The Natural Areas Program and/or its sub-contracotrs sprayed Twin Peaks with these pesticides 19 times in 2011 and 16 times in 2010.

    One wonders why the California Fish & Game Dept is giving NAP permission to reintroduce this rare butterfly to such a poisonous environment. One wonders if NAP knows what they are doing. One wonders why people calling themselves environmentalists support these destructive projects.

  2. Richard Drechsler says:

    I thought that both the government and nature organizations shunned he practice of relocating wildlife, even endemic species.

    Does this give people the green light to pack up their neighborhoods pesky racoons, skunks and opossoms and dump them in what they consider a more “natural” environment?

    Should we expect the delivery of more coyotes, then Quail followed by Brown Bears in order to restore “ecological stability” to SF?

    If the Mission Blue Butterfly is not reproducing on Twin Peaks as they would on San Bruno Mt, then at what point does this program itself become a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)?

    Webmaster: The movement of endangered species into new locations where they do not presently exist requires the permission of the California Department of Fish & Game. It is difficult to understand why Fish & Game continues to give permission to NAP, given that it has been trying to do this for several years and that they spray Twin Peaks with pesticides that are known to be harmful to butterflies.

  3. Richard Drechsler says:

    That’s interesting because I thought that California’s threatened/endangered species law does not cover insects. I wonder why isn’t Fish and Wildlife if not involved instead?

    Webmaster: Good catch, Richard! It is US Fish & Wildlife that has given permission for the reintroduction of the Mission Blue on Twin Peaks. Thanks for your help to get this right. Here is a link to an excellent article on the Save Sutro website about the reintroduction effort which confirms your surmise: http://sutroforest.com/2011/04/08/twin-peaks-and-the-mission-blue-butterfly-why-its-still-uncertain/.

  4. Ted says:

    What is a realistic timeframe to know whether the annual reintroduction is showing any success? A report in the Huffington Post about the butterfly program says that 40 males and 20 females are being released in May 2012 and that they have fighting chance because of study that has been taking place since 2009. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/03/mission-blue-butterflies-_n_1476328)

  5. SaveSutro says:

    Perhaps I can help; I’ve been following the Mission Blue story for the http://www.savesutro.com website, and recently asked SF RPD for the relevant information.


    HuffPost got it slightly wrong: it’s 40 females and 20 males. The plan ends July 2015, but they need to get new licenses each year from US Fish & Wildlife Service, which specify how many butterflies and who can collect them. (It’s being done by SF RPD, Liam O’Brien, and Creekside Center for Earth Observation.)

    US FWS continues to give permission because the definition of success is minimal: it must only be shown that the butterfly can *complete its life-cycle* on Twin Peaks. And indeed, some next-generation butterflies did appear, though the output was smaller than the input – in 2011, it was 7 butterflies. (The butterflies are short-lived; it’s the caterpillars and pupae that survive and become the next generation of butterflies.)

    Second, at least thus far the sending population on San Bruno mountain is stable.

    Can the effort succeed? I would like that to happen. SF RPD are trying hard and spending thousands of dollars to do it. There are 3 factors working against them: the fungus that killed the lupin is still in the soil; they’ve been using a pesticide that has been shown to adversely affect other butterflies; and the numbers are still very small. I have doubts about whether it can form a self-sustaining population. Not many eggs make it to butterflies – the caterpillars and pupae get eaten.

    Though the Plan ends in 2015, in the original presentation, the plan document from NAP and Creekside noted that in the UK, butterfly re-introductions took an average of 11 attempts, translocation of 292 individuals, and a 15-year time-line. (They quoted research from Oakes & Warren, 1990 and Schultz et al, 2008.) If that’s the model, then they may keep going until 2025.

    [Edited to Add: It won’t be easy. Oakes & Warren studied 40 attempts involving 13 species of butterfly in Hampshire, UK. They noted in the abstract, “Only 4 artificially established colonies lasted for more than 3 years.”]

    Meanwhile, the Mission Blue has shown up in several other locations on the Peninsula, on its own without help. And each May, Twin Peaks will have at least the 60 butterflies transferred from San Bruno Mountain.

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