“Just add butterflies.” That’s what SJPT Stewardship Manager Kathleen Foley said when she saw this gorgeous bloom of Brassica and Blush at the Sundstrom Farm Preserve site on May 3.

This is one of two Suitable Habitat Patches (SHPs) developed by Kathleen and her crews (in collaboration with the Island Marble Butterfly Task Force) to support the rare island marble butterfly. The marble’s flight season has just begun and biologists are hoping these mustard patches will lure the butterfly to safe havens for reproducing and expanding its range.

Flight season for island marble is from mid-April to approximately mid-June. During this period, butterflies will be emerging from their overwintering pupal stage into flying adults. Once mated, the females will lay eggs on Brassica and other host plants and the one-year reproductive cycle will begin again.

The first island marbles of this season were reported at South Beach/American Camp on May 2. The south end of San Juan Island is the last stronghold for this subspecies of Euchloe ausonides that was recently proposed for endangered species status by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Preservation Trust will be monitoring its SHPs throughout the island marble field season. Both the butterfly’s host plant (Brassica rapa) and several nectar plants including blush (Plectritis  congesta), field chickweed (Cerastium arvense) and blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora) are currently thriving—a beacon of hope for this rare and beautiful insect. Now, we eagerly await the butterflies.

Stay tuned for more episodes in the incredible saga of the island marble butterfly. Click here to learn more.

– Susan Vernon