So much more than meets the eye, butterflies are not only beautiful to look at, they are a critical component and bellwether of our environment. As an indicator species, and an extremely important group of ‘model’ organisms, butterflies have been studied for centuries to investigate many areas of biological research, in particular, environmental conservation. As a bioindicator, the butterfly species’ function, population count and status all reveal the qualitative status of the environment. These tiny earth residents are critical in preserving the world’s biodiversity; unfortunately, however, many butterfly species are under serious threat.
This very real threat is what led President and Founder Anita Camacho to take action. In 2018, Camacho formed the Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation (TBBF) as a means to bring awareness to the plight of butterflies, support conservation efforts, and restore butterfly habitats in the Tampa Bay area. Passionate about gardening and butterflies since her youth, Anita, as an adult, came to realize the importance of environmental stewardship, particularly as it related to the declining population of pollinators and other beneficial insects. A lifelong Tampa resident and successful businesswoman, Anita also founded the Tampa Bay chapter of the North American Butterfly Association in 2018 to educate people as to the importance of butterfly conservation. Currently serving as the president of the Tampa chapter of NABA, Camacho encourages all to come to a meeting, an event or a field trip to learn how each of us can contribute to bringing more butterflies to our own yards and surrounding areas. To quote NABA national President, Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg, “If we are helping butterflies, we are helping ourselves.”
As Anita likes to emphasize, it all starts with awareness and education. One hundred and eighteen butterfly species breed and reside in the Tampa Bay area and approximately 200 species are visitors of the state. Moreover, many butterflies found in Florida are found nowhere else in North America. Through outreach and education, TBBF wants to inspire people about the ease and benefit of native gardening, its relevance to butterflies and other wildlife, to stress the importance of conservation and to underscore the critical need to reverse the ongoing destruction of butterfly and pollinator habitats.
You, too, can help reverse this critical threat. By attending a meeting of, or joining, a local chapter of NABA, by educating yourself on what to plant to establish your own native pollinator habitat, and by donating to TBBF, you can get directly involved in butterfly conservation efforts.