Students Aid in Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project

On October 27 2020, 19 students from Hornby Island Community School spent a windy afternoon in Helliwell Provincial Park planting native plants on the bluffs. Along with them were the stewards from the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, school staff, parent volunteers, and science staff from BC Parks and the Ministry of the Environment. These 30 people were taking part in the ongoing restoration project of our island’s rare Garry Oak Ecosystem, one of the last in Canada.

It took the work crew less than two hours to pull 900 weeds and fill the holes with 700 plugs of California Brome, a native grass which is a host plant for endangered species of insects that are important to the health of the ecosystem. One of these species is the beautiful Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly which was extirpated from Hornby in the early 1990’s due to park degradation. Eight-hundred of their larvae were reintroduced in March of 2020 after years of preparation. Native plants provide food and habitat that are essential to the survival of these insects, so after 5 years of weeding and planting the bluff’s meadows, butterflies were again flitting about Helliwell this past May.

Taking part in this project is an integral component of the NHC’s mandate to actively educate the public on the workings of nature. Visitors to the park can do their part to help heal the ecosystem by staying on the marked pathways and keeping dogs leashed to minimize damage to sensitive plants and insects.

Volunteers practiced covid-19 safety protocols while planting.

One of the first Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies seen in Helliwell Provincial Park in more than 25 years. Photo by J. Heron.

Featured photo of students planting at Helliwell by barb biagi.

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