Walk with Tigers in Annie Alley

Walk with Tigers in Annie Alley

Due to this spring’s dry heat spell, the first Western Tiger Swallowtail P. rutulus brood of the season are flying. We surveyed the Market Street polulation on Earth Day, April 22nd and encountered eleven. This is the highest combination of males and females we’ve noted to date, and they seem to be concentrated along Market Street between Fourth and Beal. Though, it should be noted, because this is San Francisco’s largest butterfly, it can fly distances in search of nectar and alternative breeding locations. We hope to change this with our “Tigers on Market Street” project and make the habitat even more conducive to expanded populations. We note that the males tend to stay in one location, and the larger in size females fly from one to three blocks at a time, sometimes stopping for nectar or to rest and sun.

The most astonishing part of this project is being amongst the busiest, highest commerce section of the city and experience nature: a Noctua pronuba moth darts out from the breezeway at One Sutter between buildings, a Paltothemis lineatipes dragonfly navigates the intersection at Davis and California, and Western Tigers soar in the upper London Plane canopy, tracing pheromone trails, seemingly unaffected by the traffic below but for a push skyward as the updraft from the MUNI bus lets the butterfly cross the street.

Annie Alley is on the the South side of Market between 3rd and New Montgomery. Here we are thrilled to note a female Western Tiger taking nectar from a camellia (see featured photo by Liam O’Brien) before she turned the corner and disappeared down Stevenson.

This spot has got the mental cogs turing… Perhaps this planter on Annie Alley will be our first site for nectar plantings for the Tigers (thanks to Regina Velasco for the idea). It seems ideal: nearby buildings are low, light streams into the alley, and reflected sunlight from the Palace Hotel keeps the space warm.

We will be giving a “Tigers on Market Street” walk for the Studio for Urban Projects this fall. We may be doing sanctioned or guerrilla nectar planting at this site to support the butterfly. The second brood of 2013 that will emerge in late July and fly through October and will appreciate the nearby food. Please register and join us! See you there.

Thank you Greg Kareofelas for the dragonfly identification.