Butterfly Program at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

I had planned on putting this post up on Tuesday along with all of my beautiful butterfly pictures but didn’t have a chance to write it.  (I had many many visitors last weekend.  And had so much fun.)  But I was also very excited about finding a monarch butterfly and caterpillar in my yard so I posted the pictures without the accompanying narrative.  So here’s the words and a few of Tuesday’s photos! 

Monarch

I’ve written about the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park several times over the past few years.  It’s one of my favorite places in Citrus County.  When I read in the Citrus Chronicle that June’s monthly theme was about butterflies and bees, I was determined to attend.  I had to do a little rearrangement of my schedule since it was the exact time of my banjo lesson last Thursday plus we had a trip to make to the airport to pick up VIPs!  But it all worked out.

The speaker was Michael Boulware from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Butterfly Rainforest in Gainesville. Mike obviously loves his job and was very passionate in his speaking about butterflies.  After about an hour on the subject he then took questions from the audience.

Mike Boulware
Michael Boulware, living exhibit specialist at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Butterfly Rainforest

Near the beginning of the program, Mike stated that just one person can make a difference and gave suggestions as to how we can make that difference.  For instance, Florida has more spring water than the rest of the world combined and those springs are in trouble.  He suggested that we had two easy ways to help save the springs.  The first is to avoid plastic bottled water so companies will not use our springs to fill those bottles. The second is to use native plants since they need less water. He added that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem! 

We try to cut back on those evil water bottles but it’s such a convenience, especially when friends and family come for a visit.  And we do recycle everything possible.  But we will make a better effort at putting our reusable water bottles into circulation.  I’ll also be seeking out more native plants to put in our yard to cut back on the irrigation system use.  Mike suggested finding our local native plant society.  Something else to research!

To help monarch migration, Mike said to plant milkweed which is the only plant that the monarch caterpillar can eat.  And that orange and yellow milkweed that most of us plant for the monarchs?  That’s tropical or Mexican milkweed.  While the monarch caterpillars love it, it’s the wrong plant!  According to Mike it blooms for too long and the monarchs lay their eggs on the plants too late in the season.  The butterflies should already be on their way to Mexico!  He added that we should leave the Mexican milkweed until we get native milkweed established.  Another bit of research to find out where I can buy that!

Monarch Caterpillar
Monarch Caterpillar on Mexican Milkweed

 

In addition, Mike said to plant nectar plants for all varieties of butterflies and leave part of your yard unmowed which might even attract lightning bugs.  I was surprised to learn the Spanish needle, one weed I have attempted to eliminate because I HATE it, is a good nectar plant.  (Guess I’ll let it grow in that “natural” part of my yard.)

There are several reasons that we need the butterfly but the first important one is that it is a pollinator which we need to grow our food.  It is also an indicator species.  When the butterfly becomes scarce, there is a problem.  

Mike handed out two pamphlets about butterflies plus another sheet listing butterfly plants for North-Central Florida.  He was a very interesting speaker and I learned quite a bit during the presentation.  On June 26th at 1 pm Melody Tayler will be presenting a program on bees. The program is included in regular park admission and held in the Children’s Education Center at the Wildlife Park.  

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