Butterflies Abound at Skyline Forest

Jul 09, 2019
The summer sun has Skyline Forest all abuzz. During a recent Land Trust hike, visitors stumbled upon thousands of butterfly caterpillars and chrysalides. This past week, they filled the skies with orange!


California tortoiseshell butterflies caterpillars hang in "J" hooks. Photo: Randy Tomer.
California tortoiseshell butterflies caterpillars hang in "J" hooks. Photo: Randy Tomer.
Last month during a Land Trust outing in Skyline Forest, hikers stumbled upon something incredible! 

A "bazillion" California tortoiseshell butterfly caterpillars were spotted along the trail to Bull Springs. These caterpillars and chrysalides were found clustered around the trail, eating every leaf off the nearby bushes.

California tortoiseshell butterflies have a natural boom and bust cycle, and hike participants were amazed at the BOOM they were seeing! After eating heaps and heaps of snowbrush and rabbitbrush, the California tortoiseshell caterpillars began forming chrysalides on just about anything! From sticks to blades of grass, the forest was full of what Stewardship Director, Amanda liked to call "J's and Cats."

The first sign that a caterpillar is going to form a chrysalis is when they form a "J hook." They attach themselves with their silk to their chosen branch and shape their body into a J shape. They then begin their transformative journey into a chrysalis. After forming chrysalides, the California Tortoiseshells take a week or two to transform into butterflies!

A California Tortoiseshell after eclosing at Skyline Forest. Photo: Land Trust.
A California Tortoiseshell after eclosing at Skyline Forest. Photo: Land Trust.
Last weekend, these butterflies began to emerge and fill the sky with orange. Natural phenomenon, like this super-boom of California tortoiseshell butterflies, reminds us of how incredible, yet also fragile the world we live in can be. Caring for and protecting these places will give future generations the chance to experience this same wonder. As we watch them fly about, moving from flower to flower, we can't help but dream of a future where Monarch butterflies have returned to Central Oregon. We hope you are inspired too!






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