Skip to main content

Incarcerated Women Raise Endangered Butterflies

August 31, 2022

By Danielle Jimenez

Department of Corrections

(Video Credit: Danielle Jimenez, DOC Communications)

Incarcerated butterfly technicians have received a new batch of the federally endangered Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) and have started the year-long process of caring for them, their eggs and their larvae.

“It’s been really amazing, we just got our butterflies in two weeks ago, so we just started collecting eggs... So it’s really exciting — very educational.” said Tiffany Doll, butterfly technician at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

The incarcerated women are trained to provide the delicate and meticulous care that the butterflies require. This includes collecting the eggs, which are only around one milliliter each and are laid in clusters that they must precisely cut out of leaves and store until they hatch.

“Both the butterflies, and the eggs are cared for by carefully monitoring the temperature and humidity of the environment,” said Kelli Bush, co-director of Sustainability in Prisons Project. “The butterflies are fed a honey-water solution that mimics nectar from the wild. Once the eggs hatch, they are fed leaves from a plant called plantain. So, the women are carefully monitoring all the environmental conditions . . . so hopefully they can be released out into the wild later.”

The women in the program say they really enjoy the program and all the knowledge they’ve gained.

“I think the program is really important,” Doll said. “It’s one of the programs where I feel the most stimulated, where I feel like I’m really learning something. Statistically, if you have an education while you’re incarcerated recidivism drops, and these kinds of programs really make the difference.”

For Doll, she said it’s more than just a program to her and helps her on a deep level.

“It gives us confidence, it gives us a big jump in our self-worth, it makes us feel like we're not just an incarcerated person,” Doll said. “When we come here, we’re treated as equals and we’re looked at as our potential, and who we are as women. This is an amazing program and I’m grateful and so blessed to be a part of it.”