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Unlikely Home: Los Angeles Airport Is Haven for Rare Butterfly Species

LAX is the third-busiest airport in the United States, which isn’t a surprising statistic for anyone who has been there. What is surprising is the fact that the airport is also a safe haven for an endangered species of butterfly. It’s called the El Segundo blue butterfly, and it’s making a comeback after being on the verge of extinction a few decades ago.

The El Segundo blue butterfly used to be living the dream. According to National Geographic, these butterflies lived in sand dunes near the Pacific Ocean. They chose that location because it offers a plentiful supply of coast buckwheat, which is necessary for their survival.

It starts with caterpillars eating the seeds of the coast buckwheat. Adults make a meal out of its nectar. Females lay their eggs on the buckwheat flowers during the summer. When winter comes around and it gets colder, chrysalises go under the buckwheat for protection.

Developments ended up taking those sand dunes away from the butterflies. With the dunes gone, the number of butterflies dropped dramatically, and the El Segundo blue butterfly was put on the endangered species list in 1976. At that time, its only habitat was LAX.

Knowing that these butterflies needed coast buckwheat, scientists started planting it near the airport’s runways. It was sorely needed, as there were fewer than 1,000 butterflies in the middle of the 1980s.

Planting the buckwheat was a huge success, as the butterfly population at the airport has grown to about 25,000, and it keeps growing whenever people plant more buckwheat. The butterflies even have a nearby sanctuary to call their own at The El Segundo Butterfly Preserve, home to about 125,000 butterflies during the summer.

The El Segundo blue butterfly is living proof of how an endangered species can thrive, especially when people do their part. Here’s another amazing story of butterfly survival, this time in a freezing climate.

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