We’re All Abuzz about Butterflies and Bees at the Wildlife Park in August

Discover the hidden lives of butterflies, moths and bees during the month of August at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Learn about butterflies and bees through exhibits in the Visitor Center and in the Discovery Center.

Two special programs will also be offered, one on “The Importance of Honey Bees” by Master Beekeeper Melody Tayler, and another on “Florida’s Butterflies and Moths” by biologist Jeff Rundell.

August displays in the Visitor Center include a photography exhibit of dozens of varieties of native butterflies by Park Volunteer Ralph Bischoff.  Melody Tayler will set up a fascinating exhibit on beekeeping in the Visitor Center which will include a bee hive, beekeeper’s head gear and tools used in caring for bees.

Exhibits and activities on Florida’s butterflies and bees will also be featured in the Discovery Center inside the Park.

Learn about Honey Bees

Honey Bee image by Ralph Bischoff

Friday, August 18, 2017, starting at 1:00 pm

A special program on Florida’s Honeybees will be presented by Melody Tayler in the Florida Room at the Park’s main entrance and Visitor Center. There will be no charge to attend this program.

Melody Tayler, a Homosassa resident and working beekeeper, will offer a program on Honey Bees. Tayler was born and raised in Tampa where she worked as a bookkeeper.  She began keeping bees in 2008 and has given many presentations on Honey Bees over the past seven years, including programs for the Citrus County’s library system, schools, and clubs.

Tayler has also done programs for Wildlife Ranger summer camps and at Earth Day events at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. She has attended Pioneer Days and Fort Cooper Days Park’s reenactment events.

Beekeeper image courtesy of Pixabay.com

She is the secretary of Nature Coast Beekeepers Club, which meets monthly at Victory Baptist Church in Inverness.  Melody has has attended University of Florida’s Bee College for the past seven years and has achieved the level of “Master Beekeeper” through UF.

Her presentation will explain the Honey Bee’s workings as a social insect and products produced by the hive.  In addition she will suggest ways to help save these valuable insects.

Learn about the Butterflies and Moths

Jeff Rundell, Park Volunteer will be presenting all about butterflies and moths for park visitors. He is seen here giving a presentation on air plants.

Jeff Rundell, a Park Volunteer and retired biology teacher invites you to Learn about the Butterflies and Moths and other characters with more than four legs at his presentation on Thursday, August 24, 2017, starting at 1:00 pm in the Florida Room of the park’s Visitor Center located on US 19.

As a Park volunteer Rundell does outreach programs, works in the Discovery Center, and has created a variety of displays. He spent his career teaching Biology in the Adirondack region of northern New York. He graduated from the State University of New York and has done graduate work in Minnesota and in Ohio. Jeff is an officer of the Orchid Lovers Club in Spring Hill and has a collection of plants that he terms “out of control.”

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly image by Ralph Bischoff.

Rundell notes that “Butterflies are the bright airborne stars of the insect world. Moths usually don’t get as much positive attention but many are magnificent in their twilight world. Florida is incredibly rich in both of these groups. The sight of a Luna moth or a Giant Swallowtail butterfly always inspires a sense of awe and wonder, but that beauty is rooted in adaptations that help them survive. Their world includes sly mimics, camouflage, false threats and an array of chemical warfare. No creature changes so dramatically in form throughout its brief life. There are still many mysteries connected to these amazing insects, along with increasing variety of environmental threats.”

Florida’s state butterfly is the Zebra Longwing. Image by Diane Bedard

Jeff adds, “Florida is also host to a variety of other fascinating characters with more than four legs. They are often misunderstood, underappreciated and frequently sprayed or squashed. Although they don’t have the flashy flight of butterflies, their stories are just as intriguing.”

There is no charge to attend this program and there will be hand-outs available.

About Florida’s Butterflies:

Giant Swallowtail butterflies reach average wingspan of 4 -6 ½ inches. Image courtesy of Ralph Bischoff.

Did you know…that there are 170 species of butterflies that are native to Florida? Butterflies, along with moths, compose the group Lepidoptera, or scale-winged insects. Most butterflies’ lifespan is only a few days to several weeks. Some exceptions include the Zebra butterflies that can live for several months. The Monarch is an exception as they overwinter and can live up to 8 months or more.

Butterflies start arriving in the spring with Swallowtails, Cabbage whites, and Gray hairstreaks being some of the first arrivals.

March is the peak of the season with the first generation having passed by April.

Tiger Swallowtail butterflies are attracted to thistle plants. Image courtesy of Susan Strawbridge.

The period from mid-April through June sees the appearance of Banded hairstreaks, and Striped hairstreaks.

The second generation of Swallowtails and some other butterflies also emerge during this time. The greatest abundance and diversity of butterflies occurs from August through mid-October.

Resident species are at their peak numbers and are joined by many migrating butterflies, including Cloudless sulphurs, Common buckeyes, Monarchs and the Long- tailed skippers as they fly South by the millions.

Fiery Skipper by Ralph Bischoff.

What you can do to help Florida’s Butterflies…

If you wish to help butterflies, you can plant a butterfly garden and include host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies. Not all flowers attract butterflies; and caterpillars do not eat the leaves of all plants.

The following native plants are just a few examples of the many plants that attract butterflies: Milkweed, Porterweed, Tropical sage, Butterfly bush, Black-eyed Susans, Wild coffee, Tampa verbena, and Passionflower.

Check with the County Extension office, or your local garden club, or native plant society for more suggestions on host and nectar plants for the butterflies in your area.

Honey bees pollinate flowers, trees and fruit. They are an integral part of our natural food chain. Image courtesy of Ralph Bischoff

About Florida’s Bees:

Did you know…Florida is home to roughly 315 species of native bees, of which 29 of those are found only in Florida. Honeybees have been evolving for a very long time – the fossil record goes back at least 100 million years.

The Honeybee is the only bee that dies after stinging. The Honeybee is the only insect that produces food which is eaten by man.

Purple coneflowers are bee-friendly. You can plant some in your garden to help the bees.

What you can do to help Florida’s Bees…

If you would like to help Florida’s bees, Tayler suggests that you stop using insecticides. You should also avoid seeds that are coated with systemic insecticides. Plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden such as Asters, Black-eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers, and Woodland Sage.

As you can see, we have a lot planned for August and encourage you to visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn about the importance of Florida’s wildlife including butterflies and bees.  For more information or to register, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.