PORT CHARLOTTE — A fluttering butterfly can be so much more than an insect.

It’s the sign of a healthy ecosystem, and a thriving environment.

The Peace River Butterfly Society met Wednesday for their monthly meeting, where they listened to a lecture from Tom Allen Butterfly Garden curator Cheryl Anderson.

Here are three things the Sun learned about butterflies at Tuesday’s meeting:

1 Butterflies are an indicator species.

“If you want to know how the environment is doing, look at butterflies,” said the group’s president, Steve Scott.

Butterfly-rich areas indicate a wide range of invertebrates, according to the Butterfly Conservation, thus providing pollination, natural pest control and food for many predators.

However, their population has declined in the past few years.

The number of Monarch butterflies particularly has gone done, mostly due to deforestation and various pesticides killing plants the insects need, according to Cheryl Anderson, a curator at the Tom Allen Butterfly Garden in Cape Coral.

2 Different plants attract different butterflies.

Female butterflies deposit their eggs, sometimes over 300 at a time, in certain plants called host plants. These depend on the species of the butterfly.

Though only one in every 100 eggs becomes a caterpillar, according to Anderson, once a caterpillar emerges from its egg, it consumes the leaves.


Butterflies and their Host Plants

Butterfly Host Plant
Zebra Longwing, Gulf Fritilary and Julia Heliconian Maypop passionvine and Corky Stem passionvine
Monarch and Queen Scarlet Milkweed
Polydamus and Pipevine Swallowtail Pipevine
Eastern Black Swallowtail Parsley, Dill and Fennel
Atala Hairstreake Coontie

It’s important to keep these plants healthy to continue providing food for the insects. And the good news? Most butterfly plants can live just fine in a three-gallon pot, Anderson said.

To get your own butterfly garden started, you can purchase milkweed and other nectar plants from the group at the Nature Festival Nov. 16.

3 Migratory Monarch butterflies have different DNA than their local counterparts

Migratory Monarch butterflies can fly up to 3,000 miles in the fall to reach their winter destination: Mexico.

They have a GPS gene, Anderson said, and live up to seven months.

Meanwhile, local Monarchs live up to 60 days and rarely stray far from home.

Anderson said a few years ago, 5,000 Monarch butterflies were tagged to track their location. Only nine were found more than five miles away from where they were tagged.

The Peace River Butterfly Society meets the third Wednesday of every month. After every meeting, the group has an outing usually to a garden where they can observe butterflies.

Memberships to the Peace River Butterfly Society are $10 a year.

To learn more information, e-mail the group’s president, Steve Scott, at sfscott2011@hotmail.com.

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