Wednesday, July 11, 2012

King of the Prairie and Butterfly Eco-tourism

Eco-tourism is big business.  It can improve a local economy and entice communities to protect nature- once they realize its economic value. Consider the Monarch trips to Mexico, birding trips to Costa Rica or locally, the Biggest Week in American Birding and Flora-Quest are are good examples of how nature travels are economic boosters for small communities in Ohio.

IF you have an interest in butterflies- THIS is the program you need to support.  The Regal Fritially Tours  are offered 4 DAYS only each year at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.  They are held by PA Wildlife in conjunction with the National Guard.

The people come in droves!  After signing a few papers to remind you that you are on an active base, with active ordinance (live ammunition), we carpool out into the field where the flutterbys await!

 Wildlife program Manager, Joe Hovis  gave us an excellent run-down of the life history of the Regal Fritillary and the land management at this base designed to enhance the frit population.  They have something very special here, and they are working hard to preserve and protect it.

 A mega-bonus: in your face views of the bugs.  Since we are not allowed to enter the fields (KaBoom!) the staff has scouted ahead to procure an up-close sample for us.  This was an expected benefit of this tour, and no butterflies were harmed.  It was strictly an educational presentation and release.

There were plenty of opportunities to photograph butterflies
(at least 17 species!) from the safety and comfort of the road.  Expert lepidopterists and local families blended together on this tour.  There was something for everyone!

Nick, a land manager for the Fort, discusses the grassland management with Ohio's Guy Denny.  We learned much about the regal Fritillary and the role disturbance plays in the preservation of this endangered (in Ohio) butterfly.
" Regals love ranges," say their promotional materials.  In fact, violets love ranges and the Regals love violets.  Disturbance, ie.  fire (historically caused here by live ammo) and big military equipment (like tanks and half-tracks) running around, tears up the grasses- creating habitat for violets.  Without disturbance the grasses soon close in on the violets and crowd them out.

Now these areas are managed with a series of techniques to enhance Regal's habitat, and  Regal larva are being raised to repatriate other landscapes in Pennsylvania- like the Gettysburg battlefield, a National landmark.   Regals were once common there, but the populations died off- as fire has not been a component of the landscape management at that park.  We need to look at the big picture for these butterflies, to understand how to protect and preserve some pockets of their populations for the future.

The winner: the Regal Fritillary and the people who come to visit.  Help protect this rare butterfly by planning your 2013 trip to Pennsylvania to see this majestic King of the Prairie.  You will be impressed with the excellence of this program and the knowledge of your guides.

No comments:

Post a Comment