Making a Difference in Butterfly Conservation in Southwest Florida

As a butterfly guardian, you can make a difference in protecting local species. You can start by adding native nectar and caterpillar host plants to your garden, eliminating the use of pesticides, or volunteering at community outreach events. Practical help for butterfly habitats, parks and natural areas is also essential. For instance, Gary Pappas facilitated the removal of discarded tires at the Chekika unit of Everglades National Park, one of the richest butterfly areas in South Florida.

Protecting host larvae is more important for butterfly conservation than protecting nectar plants. The monarch's larval host plant is milkweed (genus Asclepias), of which there are more than 100 species in North America. Working to protect a rare and endangered butterfly often involves field or laboratory work, or meetings and conference calls. Creating a butterfly garden is also a rewarding experience.

There are approximately 760 species of butterflies in North America, about 170 can be found in Florida and at least 50 to 60 species in the Sarasota County area.

Butterfly cultivation is essential

for these species, as their habitats continue to shrink due to roadside logging, land development, insect fumigation, and wetland drainage and filling. Local conservation efforts to protect, restore and manage natural habitats help protect species from extinction. The monarch is the only butterfly species that migrates back and forth over a long distance.

Citizen scientists have revealed the autumnal migration routes of monarch butterflies in eastern North America. Dennis Olle, Vice President of Conservation at the MBC, observed the proliferation of the sleeping orange host plant, the sickle (Senna obtusifolia), which may be correlated with the wave of butterflies. When creating habitat for non-migratory butterflies (like many monarchs in South Florida), it's important to pay attention to detail as they tend to live in a very small area and have more specific habitat requirements than migrants. Collaborating with museums on conservation is also beneficial.

For example, First Magnitude brewery owes its name to the term used to describe the volume of water produced in natural springs in north-central Florida. The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the most abundant and recognized butterflies in the world. Several plant species that were recommended for butterflies in the 1980s and 1990s have become invasive and have been added to the FLEPPC list. As an individual who cares about butterfly conservation, there are many ways you can make a difference.

Adding native nectar and caterpillar host plants to your garden is one way to contribute to butterfly conservation efforts. You can also volunteer at community outreach events or help with practical tasks such as removing discarded tires from butterfly habitats or parks. Additionally, it's important to be aware of which plants are recommended for butterflies as some may become invasive over time. Finally, collaborating with museums on conservation projects can be beneficial for both parties.

Alexander Renaud
Alexander Renaud

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