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Nature Center’s garden flutters with activity

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | August 27, 2015

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A light breeze swirls inside Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Nature Center  garden causing a Gulf Fritillary butterfly to slightly drift off course.

Recovering quickly, the Gulf Fritillary, otherwise known as the Passion Butterfly, regains its composure and lands on bright red bloom of a geranium in search of sweet nectar.

Weighing less than a tenth of an ounce, the bright orange and blackened body with three black-encircled white dots on its forewings, the butterfly stays on the colorful bloom only for a few seconds. Then it’s off in search of more nectar.

The Gulf Fritillary is one of the most common butterflies aboard the installation, according to a recent survey conducted by Julie Robbins, Natural Resource Manager, MCLB Albany.

“Lepidopterology, the study of butterflies and moths, is extremely important ecologically,” Robbins said. “The reason we are interested in documenting the butterfly species on the installation is that butterflies can indicate the overall diversity and health of ecosystems.”

According to Robbins, butterfly larvae are often host specific to certain plants. 

“Host specific means that the caterpillars have a limited number of plants in their diet and without these plants, the larvae can’t develop into butterflies,” she said. “Having the species on the installation indicates that the undergrowth is diverse and capable of supporting populations of beneficial insects like butterflies and honeybees.”

Management efforts like prescribed burning and restoring native grasses and wildflowers have helped boost populations of these species, she added.

So far, Robbins has documented 21 different species of butterflies through her survey efforts. The information collected will also be used to develop a future butterfly guide for the base, she said.

Robbins added that Nature Center visitors could see several other butterflies with unique names such as Common Buckeyes, Southern Cloudywings, American Painted Ladies, Pearl Crescents, Fiery Skippers and Delaware Skippers. 

Some of the most common large butterflies fluttering around the flowers of the Nature Center’s garden include Black Swallowtails, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Red Spotted Purples.

Butterfly identification guide books, binoculars for children and a several butterfly nets are available inside the Nature Center for any young entomologists who want to study butterflies, Robbins noted.

She said there are several good places to view butterflies on the installation to include the Nature Center garden outside Building 9251B at the corner of Williams Boulevard and Crabb Avenue; along South Shaw Road, just west of the Main Gate, and along North Shaw Road, east of the intersection with Walker Avenue.

The Nature Center’s garden is located in front of the Natural and Cultural Resources Building.  The hours of operation are seven days a week from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For more information, call 229-639-9946.

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