Over 30 volunteer scouts and parents came out to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center on an overcast and misty Sunday to plant 200 native wildflowers in an attempt to encourage one rare species of butterfly to make the grasslands surrounding the nature center a permanent home.
The volunteers consisted of scouts and their families from Cub Scout Pack 41 of Bangor, Boy Scout Troop 58 of Allentown and Boy Scout Troop 261 of Breiningsville.
"The scouts did an outstanding job digging holes in the rocky mountainside of the Kittatinny Ridge and adding more native plant diversity to the ecology of the refuge," said Paul Zeph, director of conservation for Audubon Pennsylvania. "It's a big mountain, but the work being done at Lehigh Gap shows that we can restore the damaged places and protect the remaining healthy habitat of the ridge if groups, individuals, and municipalities all care about its future and work together with a common vision," said Zeph.
The Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia) is a large, orange and black butterfly that was once found commonly throughout the Northeast. It is often described as looking like a "Monarch Butterfly dipped in chocolate."
The only place in Pennsylvania where this butterfly is currently found is at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County. The restored grasslands at Lehigh Gap Nature Center should make an ideal habitat for the Regal Fritillary, but it needs certain flowers for the larvae to eat their leaves and others to provide nectar for the adults.
The seven species of flowers that volunteers planted Sunday will add important native wildflowers that are not only used by the Regal Fritillary, but many other species of butterflies and insects at the Lehigh Gap Wildlife Refuge. The flowers planted include: blazing star, wild bergamot, smooth aster, common milkweed, butterfly weed, brown-eyed susan), and tall tickseed.
For more information on the regal fritillary, see this fact sheet from Ft. Indiantown Gap: http://www.milvet.state.pa.us/DMVA/images/regalfactsheet.pdf
Audubon Pennsylvania is the state office of the National Audubon Society whose mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems in Pennsylvania, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats through science, education and advocacy, for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. With nearly 30,000 members and 21 local chapters, and a diverse group of partner organizations, we accomplish our goals through the program areas of science, education and policy. For more information check: http://pa.audubon.org/ and follow us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AudubonPA and http://on.fb.me/Kaz6iT (Kittatinny RIdge and AT Facebook page).
The event is made possible with the support from the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Recreation and Conservation's Community and Conservation Partnership Program: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/brc/index.htm and the TogetherGreen Volunteer Day Program. Audubon and Toyota launched the five-year TogetherGreen initiative in 2008 to build the promise of a greener, healthier future through innovation, leadership and volunteerism. For more information, visit www.togethergreen.org.