Rare Caterpillars Will Bring Butterflies Back From Near Extinction

! Tiny  rare large heath caterpillars destined for the wild hatch at Chester Zoo (15)

More than 150 rare caterpillars hatched at Chester Zoo are now destined for release into the wild in parts of England, where they have been extinct for a century.

Tiny  rare large heath caterpillars destined for the wild hatch at Chester Zoo (1)
Tiny  rare large heath caterpillars destined for the wild hatch at Chester Zoo (1)
Tiny  rare large heath caterpillars destined for the wild hatch at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Conservationists at the zoo have been using fine art paintbrushes to move the miniscule species into their specially designed habitats at the zoo.

The paintbrushes allow the zoo’s invertebrate keepers to be precise and delicate when handling the precious insects.

After plenty of eating and growth, the tiny youngsters will hibernate over the winter and pupate next year, emerging in the summer as Large Heath Butterflies.

Large Heath Butterflies were once common across the British Isles but over the last 200 years, they have been pushed further and further north. Large colonies previously at home in the boggy mosses of Manchester and Liverpool have long since been lost to local extinction.

As the UK has built its agriculture over the last two centuries, the wet mosslands that the Large Heath needs to survive have been drained and converted into farmland. As the land dried, the food plants for the Butterfly were lost, resulting in a cascade of wildlife disappearance.

The Butterfly can be identified by its orange wings, each bearing six black and white ‘eyespots’ on the underside. Conservationists hope to ensure that they will one day be a common sight across the UK once again.

Ben Baker, Team Manager of the Chester Zoo Butterfly team, said, “Few people realize that the Butterflies we might see in our gardens, forests and mosslands across the UK are heavily under threat, with many species disappearing from their last strongholds throughout England. It is an amazing privilege to play a part in embarking these rare caterpillars on their journey, returning the species to their historic home.”

Chester Zoo supports conservationists and conservation projects across the United Kingdom to prevent the extinction of unique and endangered species, safeguarding diverse and healthy ecosystems.

Once Believed Extinct, Rare Insects Hatch at San Diego

Once thought to be extinct, 73 critically endangered Lord Howe Island Stick Insects hatched at the San Diego Zoo as part of an international breeding program to save these rare Australian insects.

24847567383_d87daa6a15_oPhoto Credit:  Tammy Spratt/San Diego Zoo

Lord Howe Island Stick Insects – also known as Tree Lobsters – was believed to be extinct after rats invaded the Australian island from cargo ships in the 19th century and ate all the insects.  But in the 1960s, scientists found one small colony – fewer than 40 individuals – living on a single shrub on a remote volcanic island off the coast of Australia.

From this fragile colony, scientists from the Melbourne Zoo collected a few individuals to begin a captive breeding program to save the species.  From those offspring, colonies were established at zoos around the world, including the San Diego Zoo, as insurance populations should a disease or natural disaster strike the original group.  The population has since grown to more than 9,000 individuals. 

Three hundred eggs went to the San Diego Zoo in January 2016, and the first 73 have hatched.  At this stage, the green insects are called “nymphs” and are experiencing their first “instar” or growth period between molts. They will molt their hard exoskeletons several more times, becoming darker each time, until they reach maturity at about seven months of age.  Adults are dark brown and measure five to six inches in length.   

Scientists hope to eventually reintroduce these insects to their former home on Lord Howe Island.

A Hundred Jumping Sticks Hatch In Houston


More than 100 Peruvian Jumping Stick Insects have hatched at the Houston Zoo since October 20!

Peruvian Jumping Stick Baby-0006-8836
Peruvian Jumping Stick Baby-0002-8797
Peruvian Jumping Stick Baby-0004-8823Photo Credit:  Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

These unique insects hatched from eggs laid by the adult female in the exhibit substrate.  The eggs take six months to a year to hatch. The Houston Zoo’s staff reports finding five to 10 hatchlings in the exhibit every day.  They recently found 21 hatchlings in a single day!

Though they appear to be related to Walking Sticks, Peruvian Jumping Sticks are actually a species of Grasshopper.  Native to Peru and Ecuador in the Amazon Basin, males and females of this species are dramatically different in appearance – an adaptation known as sexual dimorphism.  Males are small and green, while females are two or three times larger than males.  Females are brown and look almost exactly like a stick, complete with markings that look like bud scars.  Like most grasshoppers, both males and females have large hind legs and are expert jumpers.

In the wild, these insects live in trees and feed on leaves.  Their markings provide excellent camouflage that helps protect them from predators.

Dozens Of Babies Steal The Show At Cincinnati Zoo

2015-04-02 Lion Cubs 1 626The Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating a baby bonanza – dozens of babies have been born at the zoo in the past few months.  In fact, there are so many babies that the zoo is celebrating “Zoo Babies” month in May.Kea

2015-03-16 MonaJeffMcCurryPhoto Credit:  Cassandre Crawford, Jeff McCurry, Cincinnati Zoo

All the little ones have kept their parents – and zoo keepers – busy.  The three female African Lion cubs are particularly feisty, testing their “grrrl” power on a daily basis with their father John and mother Imani. 

Other babies include three Bonobos, two Gorillas, a Bongo, a Serval, two Capybaras, a Rough Green Snake, Giant Spiny Leaf Insects, Thorny Devils, Little Penguin chicks and Kea chicks.  “This is the largest and most varied group of babies we’ve had. We’re particularly excited about the successes we’ve had with the endangered African Painted Dogs and the hard-to-breed Kea,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director.

See more photos of Cincinnati's Zoo's babies below.

Continue reading "Dozens Of Babies Steal The Show At Cincinnati Zoo" »

Emperor Scorpion Has 25 Babies at the Cincinnati Zoo!


The Emperor Scorpion, like the one pictured above, is the largest in the world. And this one has had 25 babies!  According to Thane Maynard from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, their new video of the scorpion and all those offspring is the "coolest thing you'll see all week."  

And it is indeed pretty cool, unless you are squeamish about seeing a giant arthropod walking around with 25 babies on her back! The Giant Emperor scorpion, from tropical Africa, is the largest scorpion in the world, and the Cincinnati Zoo is one of the few places that breed them.  

An interesting fact: If you see one at another Zoo or Museum, chances are good that they were born at the Cincinnati Zoo. A typical litter size is 25, so they have plenty to share with other institutions. The video below will show you the mother and all her little snow-white babies.

Babies CU
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo

Tiny Tarantulas Hatch By The Hundreds!


The U.K.'s Bristol Zoo is celebrating the hatching of over 140 Antilles Pink-toed Bird-eating Tarantulas. At four weeks old, the spiderlings are now little more than the size of a 5p coin with a striking metallic steel blue-black colouring. Zoo guests can see the new arrivals in the window of the tropical breeding room in the Zoo’s Bug World.

Mark Bushell, assistant curator of invertebrates at Bristol Zoo, said: “This species is one of the most beautiful types of tarantula around. When the spiderlings first hatch, they are tiny and translucent but they gradually develop, moult and turn into little blue fluffy tarantulas and are very eye-catching”.


Photo credits: Bristol Zoo

He added: “Breeding these spiders is a real achievement. It has been a fantastic experience for our team of invertebrate keepers and means now have the tools to successfully breed more species of arachnid in future, including some of the more endangered species.”

Continue reading "Tiny Tarantulas Hatch By The Hundreds!" »

It's Alive! Lord Howe Island Stick Insect Hatches at the Melbourne Zoo

Wow. How did something that big come out of that little pod/egg? See this critically endangered Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching right before your eyes. What's more, it will grow to be about as big as the size of your hand. 

This insect came close to not even existing. After a British trade ship crashed in the South Pacific in the early 20th century, its rats scurried off deck onto the island that these stick insects called home and promptly ate all the bugs and like creatures. Apparently one small group of Lord Howe Island Sticks survived on a small section of a nearby island until they were discovered by a couple of Australian scientists. It's like the stuff of movies. You can read more about this fascinating story in an NPR article by Robert Krulwich.

This hatching process was filmed at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia. Press play and be fascinated. 

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect hatching from Zoos Victoria on Vimeo.

The New Year Brings Insect Baby Bounty

Giant spiny walkingsticks2012_Saint Louis Zoo photo_sm

The Insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo rang in the New Year with numerous hatchings on January 1. The hatchlings are being cared for behind the scenes, but many of the adults can be seen on exhibit.

A total of 39 walking sticks of varying species came into the world, starting with eight giant spiny walking sticks, whose natural habitat is the forests of Papua New Guinea. The babies are not so giant though -- they measure only about one inch (2.54 cm) compared to 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) for adults, which can be easily seen when the baby catches a ride on the back of an adult. Males have huge spines on their back legs which are like built-in weapons to help defend themselves if attacked by other males or potential predators. The total hatchlings that day also included 30 Northern walking stick babies, a species native to forests and woodlands across the U.S., and one lone Vietnamese walking stick, native to tropical forests of Vietnam.

White-spotted assassin bugs2012_Saint Louis Zoo photo_sm

In addition, there were 67 baby white-spotted assassin bugs, 3 of which are pictured above, whose natural habitat is forests of Africa. When hatched, this venomous bug is a tiny yellow, red and brown carnivore -- an opportunistic feeder that eats crickets but has been known to eat small lizards! As an adult, the assassin has two white or two red spots on its back and lives from 18 months to two years.  

Greater angle-winged katydid2012_Saint Louis Zoo photo_sm
Photo Credits: St. Louis Zoo

Also hatched: Three greater angle-winged katydids, one of whom is pictured above, whose natural habitat is Missouri. Their light green color easily helps them hide among leafy environments.