‘What’s a duskywing?’ Distinctive Guelph beer raises consciousness of uncommon butterfly

A unique beer from Fixed Gear Brewing is drawing attention to efforts by a University of Guelph team to reintroduce the mottled duskywing butterfly to its native habitat.

It’s called Duskywing Witbier, after the rare butterfly, and it’s the result of a long-term collaboration between Fixed Gear and the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.

“We still have about 100 cans left to package, but it’s moving pretty fast,” Fixed Gear director of operations and community relations Brendan Roberts said in a news release. “We expect to sell out within the next week or two.”

Fixed Gear donated stale and unsold beer to the Butterfly Conservatory, to provide the butterflies with a treat of fermenting liquids, similar to the ones they’re naturally attracted to.

The beer’s special ingredient is yeast collected from the butterflies and their host plants — New Jersey tea and prairie redroot — which are the only two plants the butterfly will lay its eggs on.

The yeast is collected with long Q-Tip-like swabs, then developed and fermented by Escarpment Labs in preparation for brewing, the release said.

The final product is a hazy, sessional beer with a tangy, citrusy flavour that’s perfect for summer, said Roberts.

The beer aims to raise awareness of the endangered butterfly species, nine of which were discovered by a U of G-led research team during early spring in Pinery Provincial Park — a hopeful indicator of the species’ reintroduction to its native habitat.

Since the first sighting of the mottled duskywings a year after their reintroduction, the research team has made 35 sightings of the species, said lead researcher Ryan Norris, an ecologist in the Department of Integrative Biology in U of G’s College of Biological Science.

“It’s really promising,” Norris said in the release. “It’s rare to do a reintroduction and to find evidence the butterflies have successfully overwintered in the first year after a release.”

The sightings indicate some of the pupae and adult mottled duskywing butterflies, reared at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, have successfully survived the winter at the Pinery.

The provincial park has spent years restoring the duskywings’ native habitats of open oak savannahs, tallgrass prairies and alvars, which are now rare in southwestern Ontario.

Once the butterfly reaches adulthood, it’s small and drab, said Norris. It also looks a lot like other duskywing species, making it hard to identify. So, naming a beer after them and putting their likeness on a can, is “a good way to raise their profile,” he added.

“People buying the duskywing beer might think ‘Well, what’s a duskywing?’ Hopefully, that will raise awareness about our work and the reintroduction at the Pinery.”


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