Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Butterfly enthusiast spreads the word

TARPON SPRINGS

Rarely does a moment go by when Lois Weber doesn't see butterflies fluttering over her back yard. That yard — about an acre of lush, drought-tolerant Florida trees and plants — backs up to the western side of Lake Tarpon. It is a yard with a purpose.

"The whole yard is a butterfly garden," said Weber, who is often called "the butterfly lady" by local garden clubs.

The colorful trees and shrubs include maroon-hued penta plants, milkweeds and a variety of herbs, such as fennel, parsley and dill. Dozens of species of butterflies feed on the many fragrant host plants. Weber has noticed, though, that the delicate creatures are drawn to plants that match the color of their wings.

"I have five kinds of cassia with yellow blooms," she said, "and they all attract yellow butterflies."

The popular orange and black-winged monarch, her favorite, feeds on her orange milkweed plants.

Weber, through the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, teaches children at McMullen-Booth, Sutherland and Tarpon Springs elementary schools how to create butterfly gardens and how to identify some of the 100 or more butterfly species in Florida.

This week she's on a mission: getting people to identify and count butterflies by species for Friday's national count sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association.

"Anybody can count the butterflies in their yard, their street or a local park," Weber said. "Kids can count in their school yards."

The NABA website states that groups of participants select a count area with a 15-mile diameter and conduct a one-day census of all butterflies seen within that circle.

"The main function of the count program is to monitor the butterflies throughout North America," said Jeffrey Glassberg, president of NABA, headquartered in Morristown, N.J. "There are about 500 counts each year, and the number is growing."

Glassberg said the butterfly census, taken in the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico, is used by scientists studying climate change and the effects of urbanization on butterfly habitats, as well as the evolution of the species.

Those taking on the challenge must sign up on the association's website, naba.org, which has additional information on species of butterflies and how to monitor them.

Weber has been given a title by the Florida garden federation — State Schools and Backyard Gardening chairman — and she takes the role seriously.

"I want to get the kids excited about nature," she said. She teaches about plants and birds as well, but butterflies are her primary focus.

She teaches children as young as 5 to bring future butterflies, still in the caterpillar stage, indoors for protection.

"Outside a monarch might lay 100 eggs," said Weber, "and if one survives, that is a lucky thing."

On her kitchen counter, Weber has an old plastic pie container holding a tiny host plant. A small caterpillar clings to the branch, away from the wasps, lizards, spiders and ants that would try to feed on it. The caterpillar will form a chrysalis, a small, cylindrical, protective case from which a butterfly eventually will emerge. It then will dry its wings and take flight.

"I try to convince the children they can do this at home, too, without spending a lot of money on containers," Weber said.

It takes about two weeks of warm weather for a monarch to emerge, but the butterfly is not long for this world after that. The zebra longwing, the Florida state butterfly, can live up to about six months.

In addition to the popular monarch, Weber's yard draws about a dozen other local species, including the giant swallowtail, the American lady and the black-winged polydamas swallowtail.

Weber, an Ohio native, moved in 1964 to Clearwater, where she and her husband, Robert, both taught elementary school while raising four children. The couple built their Tarpon Springs home in 1980.

Ever since then, spreading the word on the life cycle and the beauty of butterflies has become a passion for Weber, who sports T-shirts emblazoned with them and has replicas of various species hanging from her fence.

"This is not a hobby for me," she said. "It's more like a crusade."

Correspondent Elaine Markowitz can be reached at [email protected]

     
 
Comments
Space heater likely cause of early-morning home fire in Valrico

Space heater likely cause of early-morning home fire in Valrico

VALRICO ó A space heater is believed to be the cause of a home fire in Valrico on Tuesday morning.It took firefighters about 20 minutes to control the fire in a mobile home on Pierce Christie Drive, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.The ca...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

PARIS ó French real estate company Unibail-Rodamco has agreed to buy Australia-based shopping mall operator Westfield Corporation for $15.7 billion in cash and shares.The companies would together have 104 shopping centers in 13 countries that bring i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Find out Politifactís 2017 Lie of the Year; Alabama voters go to the polls; arraignment for accused Seminole Heights killer; Yankees may hasten Raysí dismantling

The Daystarter: Find out Politifactís 2017 Lie of the Year; Alabama voters go to the polls; arraignment for accused Seminole Heights killer; Yankees may hasten Raysí dismantling

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.10News WTSPThe latest 7-day forecastē Low temperatures continue this morning but itíll be pretty nice by the afternoon. Itíll be in the high 40s overnight and then start to rea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

Obama, Biden and Trump make late pushes in Alabama Senate race

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ó National political leaders, a Hollywood actress and a retired basketball star made last-ditch efforts to woo voters in the Alabama Senate race Monday, as the candidates gave their final arguments in a pivotal special election that ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Come to Madeira Beach for the sand, sun and scorn

Romano: Come to Madeira Beach for the sand, sun and scorn

Forgive the folks in Madeira Beach for not yet updating the FAQs portion of their website. They’ve been quite busy lately, which might explain why three of the five commissioners listed are no longer in office. Or maybe it’s just a nod t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Warm breezes across Tampa Bay ahead of fluctuating conditions

Forecast: Warm breezes across Tampa Bay ahead of fluctuating conditions

Chilly, windy, colder, sunny, warmer, rainy.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area This weekís inconsistent weather conditions will at least keep things interesting across the Tampa Bay area, even if it makes it difficult to de...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tampa forum focuses on reforming Floridaís juvenile justice system

TAMPA ó Changing the way Florida treats juvenile offenders was the focus of Monday nightís public forum on criminal justice reform."We send more children to adult prison than any other state," said Raymer Maguire IV, manager of the ACLUís Florida Cam...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Jury selection in trial of Clearwater man charged with motherís death begins today

Jury selection in trial of Clearwater man charged with motherís death begins today

Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday morning in the case of a 61-year-old man charged with beating his elderly mother to death.Daniel Edward Richards of Clearwater is charged with second-degree murder. He is representing himself during the tri...
Published: 12/12/17
Kathy Fountain, from anchor chair to therapistís chair

Kathy Fountain, from anchor chair to therapistís chair

A knowledgeable voice and familiar face beamed into Tampa Bay homes when Kathy Fountain delivered the 5 oíclock news and chatted with talk show guests on WTVT-Ch. 13. She created some news of her own as co-anchor of the first female team in the Tampa...
Published: 12/12/17
Medical field accounts for 7 of 10 highest-paying jobs

Medical field accounts for 7 of 10 highest-paying jobs

The nationís highest-paying jobs donít quite track with the fastest-growing jobs in Florida. According to a new study released today by California-based CareerCast, the highest-paying jobs are largely in the medical field and require post-graduate de...
Published: 12/12/17