March 10, 2020 Apollo Beach, FL: On Wednesday, January 29, the newly formed Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation joined forces with The Florida Aquarium, TECO, The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and local partners Sweet Bay Nursery, Florida Native Plant Society-Suncoast Chapter and the Tampa Bay chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), to gather together, grab shovels, and plant the first of a series of five butterfly and pollinator habitats. Located at The Florida Aquarium/Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Center for Conservation (CFC) in Apollo Beach, the first butterfly and pollinator habitat planted as part of the CFC Pollinator Habitat project marked the launch and first sponsorship of the Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation (TBBF), a non-profit organization founded to bring awareness of the importance of butterflies and other pollinators to our environment.
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to bring a butterfly and pollinator garden to the CFC. It is the perfect location to help bring awareness and educate the community on the importance of conservation and care of some of our smallest and most beneficial earth inhabitants. My love of gardening, most specifically my love of gardening for butterflies, began as a child and turned into a lifelong passion. I’ve been planting specifically to attract butterflies for over 25 years now,” said Anita Camacho, President and Founder of the Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation and the Tampa Bay Chapter of NABA. “To also have the support and backing of such wonderful conservation stewards—The Florida Aquarium, TECO, and FWC, as well as the generosity of our local partners, NABA Tampa Bay, Sweet Bay Nursery and the Florida Native Plant Society, ensures the success of this endeavor!”
The first and most visible habitat is a more traditional butterfly garden space and runs adjacent to The Florida Aquarium Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center. Native plants including both host and nectar plants—crucial to the butterfly habitat—range from perennial favorites such as coneflower and black-eyed Susan to the more unique coontie palm, privet cassia and dwarf wild coffee. An archway entrance covered in native flowering vines and benches are also incorporated into the area. This space together with the additional four newly established pollinator habitats span a 20-acre campus, generously donated by Tampa Electric Company (TECO) and are part of a 400-acre conservation outpost situated on a restored nature preserve. With the entire first phase of the project complete, the five habitats incorporate over 1,000 new plants which will attract over 35 butterfly species to the area.
“The collaboration between the Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation and The Florida Aquarium/Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Center for Conservation at Apollo Beach is a synergistic compilation of knowledge and talent that will result in five separate butterfly gardens on our 20 acres and will engage over 100 volunteers,” said Amber Whittle, Director of Conservation. “Increasing the habitat for pollinators and decreasing water and chemical use while educating the public is essential to the conservation mission of the Aquarium. The butterflies are right at home with our growing corals and rehabbing turtles!”
Other planting dates were held on February 13, February 28 and March 10, enlisted the help of numerous volunteers and included additional native plantings supplied by local partner, Sweet Bay Nursery. A second phase of the joint project is under consideration.
About the Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation
With a focus on Florida butterfly species and native plants, environmental education and local awareness in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation was established to support the conservation of butterflies and pollinators and the restoration of their natural wildlife habitats. By working globally with university research partners, providing educational and research opportunities and community outreach programs, and through multi-faceted fundraising efforts, the Foundation aims to elevate public awareness of the importance of butterflies.
The Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation Inc., a 501(c)(3), is an affiliate of the future Butterfly Conservatory of Tampa Bay. Currently in development, please click here for more information on the conservatory and its progress.
About The Florida Aquarium: The Florida Aquarium actively participates in and promotes stewardship of the natural environment as part of our mission of conservation. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, The Florida Aquarium provides an opportunity to see over 8,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals, explore complex ecosystems, look for wild dolphins in Tampa Bay, play at the Splash Pad and more! Ranked #2 Aquarium in North America in a recent USA TODAY’S 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, the aquarium is more than a must-see attraction, The Florida Aquarium is working to protect and restore our blue planet on many conservation fronts, including research and rescue efforts that help restore Florida’s sea turtle and coral populations and to ensure that sharks continue to swim our seas. In August of 2019, The Florida Aquarium, in partnership with Project Coral, became the first to successfully spawn critically endangered pillar coral in a laboratory. To learn more, follow us on social media at @floridaaquarium and visit www.flaquarium.org.