...and it's hungry. Teams of Zoo Corps interns, zoo keepers and volunteers battle hordes of slimy slugs and strangling weeds to find the most perfect, tiny leaves for its greedy mandible.
Who is this ominous-sounding creature, you may ask? It's the
Since 1999 Woodland Park Zoo has had a behind-the-scenes program involving hatching, raising and releasing into the wild batches of silverspot caterpillars to help boost the wild population. Because caterpillars of all species are known for being voracious eaters, a major part of the program is harvesting leaves from the violets grown by our Horticulture Department and feeding them to the ever-hungry larvae.
There’s also a fair bit of slug relocating (Zoo Corps has a competition to see who can take the most slugs from the delicious violets to Zoomazium’s backyard), dishwashing (everything in the butterfly lab must be kept absolutely sterile to ensure the caterpillars’ health), and paper cutting for caterpillar bin liners and pupa papers. It’s hard work, but it’s all worth it!
Top: Tiny silverspot butterfly eggs on a leaf. Photo by Dana Payne.
Bottom: Newly released silverspot butterfly in Oregon. Photo by Erin Sullivan.