Monday, August 11, 2008

August 2008 Atala News

August is nearing the lowest point of the atalas’ crash and irruption cycle. In another few weeks, it will seem as though the darling chompers will have decimated their host plants completely and there will be a lull until the next insurgence, sometime in late December. Not to fear, they will return (barring hurricanes or untoward cold fronts). If we do experience a hurricane or severe tropical storm, and you have the ability to do so, bring the larvae and pupae indoors until the storm has passed.

If your coonties are potted, this is relatively easy to do---just bring them all indoors. If the coonties are grounded, cut the freshest fronds, insert the stems into flower tubes, and place all within a butterfly cage for the duration for their safety. This is my FreshAir butterfly cage with pupae emerging after Hurricane Wilma. They were released the next day, when it was safe to do so; they at least had the low-growing Bidens (Spanish Needles) and other wildflowers for nectar, as all their favorite nectar sources had been destroyed by the hurricane. Adults are more difficult to rescue because of their picky nectaring habits, but it can be done, especially those who are lucky enough to have a Florida room or other protected area in which to place cut flowers for nectar, and a few potted trees for them to roost in the evening (Ficus, citrus, or others).

The month has been a whirlwind with Wild Spots Foundation, Inc., preparing for the Second Annual Biodiversity Conference in Ecuador, and then attending to the needs of nearly 100 participants and over twenty speakers from twelve countries. We learned about endangered frogs and amphibians worldwide, invasive species affecting biodiversity in Israel to plant pathogens affecting the agricultural communities in Ecuador and Colombia, as well as the exciting educational programs being put into place for these agrarian societies by dedicated professionals in environmental education.

It was wonderful to visualize the resident volcano, Tungurahua, on successively sunny days and capture photos of the pyroclastic plumes that flowed down the mountain periodically. Quite a spectacle to behold! One of our speakers, Dr. Bruce Clarkson, from New Zealand, was a wealth of knowledge about volcanoes worldwide and we took advantage of his expertise on frequent jaunts up and down the slopes surrounding this magnificent active volcano.

Wild Spots has TWO volunteer trips to Ya’an to help the pandas in recovery efforts and the people need your help in many ways. On September 12, 2008, there will be a fund-raising event at the Atrium, located just south of Griffin Road, off University Drive, from 5-7 PM. There will be refreshments served, and an opportunity to purchase a beautiful booklet with photographs taken by previous year’s volunteers of these beautiful animals. Proceeds benefit the Wolong Panda Preserve. Call Dr. Barry Barker at 954-816-1974 for the latest information about this and other trips on the agenda.

I also accepted a position with Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Inc., doing environmental assessments upon my return. This is certainly an interesting career move, doing everything from soil and water collection for chemical testing in local areas to surveying sea grasses and shore line vegetation in the Indian River Lagoon.

Another event upon my return to the States was finding my healthy milkweed plants completely devoured by both Queen and Monarch larvae! How exciting a return that was. I witnessed five Queens and twelve Monarchs emerge in my little tiny garden; it goes to prove that maxim, “Plant it and they will come!”

Regrettably, I could not attend Butterfly Days at Fairchild Tropical Garden, but I understand it was as phenomenal an event as ever this year, with 1900 visitors!

The next upcoming event for everyone is the Annual Muck-about with Friends of Big Cypress to take place at Clyde Butcher’s gallery on Labor Day weekend. Follow the link to make reservations for this very exciting event, and an opportunity to see Clyde's latest photography. It is an incredible weekend event for all who love this fragile and beautiful ecosystem. I’m looking forward to seeing you there this year!

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