(Mission, TX) – You're invited to Spike's birthday party, Saturday, December 10, at 10 AM, at the National Butterfly Center! A yearlong resident of the garden, Spike is a giant African Spurred Tortoise, whose birthday we celebrate at the anniversary of his adoption.
Abandoned after 10 years when his boy went to college, Spike was picked up by Animal Control and surrendered to a local sanctuary. The sanctuary owner first suggested Spike come to live at the National Butterfly Center, where he has become the official spokes-tortoise for the facility and a very large part of their youth education and wildlife conservation programs.
“We call Spike 'the world's most spectacular non-butterfly',” states Marianna Trevino Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center. “He's huge and very friendly, so everyone loves him. He enjoys all the attention he receives, here, and he's an excellent visual aid for teaching children all the things that butterflies have in common with reptiles, and why South Texas is home to so many of both!”
(Mission, TX) – In support of Texas’ first, statewide Pollinator BioBlitz, the National Butterfly Center will be hosting a variety of programs to get people outdoors to observe pollinators of all types in yards, natural areas, gardens, parks and community centers. This intensive week of citizen-driven data collection will occur October 7 – 16, 2016, in an effort to bring attention to the critical habitat needs of Monarchs and other pollinators across the state.
The BioBlitz is designed to be fun for all ages, with no experience required. Participants are simply asked to look for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, and nectar-producing plants; photograph or take video of them; and share their discoveries online via Instagram, using the hashtag #SaveThePollinators. Plant and insect species may be difficult to identify, so observers are encouraged to post what they know. For example, “Small bee on sunflower at Bryan Elementary, Mission,” is fine. More experienced naturalists are asked to record their observations through the iNaturalist application. There is no cost to participate and the only tools needed are a camera or smart phone, plus Internet access.
I’ve never seen so many Mexican Bluewings!
This iconic species—the emblem of the National Butterfly Center—has erupted in unprecedented numbers, this year. We interpret this phenomenon to be a good sign, both an omen of abundance and affirmation of our work.
We’re often reminded that our gardens are one great, big experiment. For this reason, our fortunes are not assured. With regard to butterfly gardening, the formula is supposed to be pretty simple: Plant the appropriate hosts and nectar, and they will come; but this wholesale habitat restoration and enrichment project is a bit trickier. What to plant where and why? Can we buy it or go find it growing wild? If we get it will it cooperate with our soil, tolerate our water? What about our pairings and predation? After all, we want our eggs, caterpillars and butterflies to have strong odds against all the wasps, beetles, frogs, birds and other wildlife that find suitable breeding and feeding areas in our plantings. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Still, the bluewings seem to be celebrating a victory of sorts; so I’ll gladly take getting hit in the face by one as a ‘high five’ for a job well done!
(Mission, TX) – It’s time to grab your camera and get outside because your best butterfly photo could net $500 in the North American Butterfly Photo Contest, hosted by the National Butterfly CenterTM conveniently located in Mission!
The Rio Grande Valley is unique for the volume and variety of butterflies that may be found here, and they just love the summer heat. Lucky for you, many species start flying around 9am—as soon as the sun is high enough to dry the morning dew off their wings—and they keep flying well into the evening hours, before finding a safe place to roost overnight.
This annual contest is open to everyone and winners are announced each fall during the renowned Texas Butterfly Festival. Complete rules may be seen and shared here. All photos must be digitally uploaded to the website portal that opens for submissions on September 1, 2016, and remains open until September 30. Photos may be taken anywhere over the last year, so long as they feature free-flying butterflies; but the time is right, now, since our magic Valley is alive with butterflies and blooms following recent rains.
(Mission, TX) – Thursday, August 25, the National Butterfly Center is hosting a free seminar for landowners, farmers and ranchers interested in learning how to access grants and cost-share programs to plant for butterflies and wildlife. Representatives from funders, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, will be present to provide details and answer registrants’ questions.