Watch an Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speryeria zerene hippolyta) transform from a caterpillar to a chrysalis via 15,000 time lapse photos taken by the Oregon Zoo. This 2012 video put the zoo’s silverspot conservation efforts in the spotlight:
What the recovery project looks like:
Late summer: Conservation biologists in the field capture adult female butterflies and bring them to the zoo butterfly conservation laboratory where they lay eggs. The eggs are hatched in special jars to maintain humidity.
Winter: The jars containing tiny caterpillars are placed in fridges to simulate winter on the Oregon Coast. During this phase, called diapause, the caterpillars are mostly inactive.
Spring: The caterpillars are removed from their jars and fed with violet leaves grown on zoo grounds. They grow rapidly through six instars (phases of molting) over a period of six to eight weeks. At the end of this time they pupate in preparation for metamorphosing into butterflies.
Summer: The pupae are taken from the zoo and placed in protective release cages on the coast. Biologists watch them every day and when the butterflies “eclose” or emerge from their pupae cases, they are released to join free flying wild butterflies.
Fall: Plants grown at the zoo and other sites are planted in the butterfly habitat to provide food and nectar for caterpillars and butterflies in the future, restoring the habitat.
Zoo keeper Mary Jo Anderson explains more about their silverspot conservation work in this Oregon Zoo video from 2007:
Thing we learned: insect poop is called frass.In the archives, more transformations: a Black Swallowtail Butterfly comes out of its chrysalis, Earth Touch‘s iPhone Films: Metamorphosis, Wonders of Life: Monarch Butterflies, and The Hidden Beauty of Pollination.