Policy Update by Eugene Kelly, Policy and Legislation Chair

When the 2023 legislative session closed with the traditional hanky-drop on May 5, it signaled the usual “mixed bag” of results for those of us who support native plant conservation and environmental protection. The good included $100 million budgeted for land conservation through the Florida Forever Program, and an additional $100 million to finance the purchase conservation easements through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFL). The bad included a continuing failure to address Florida’s water quality crisis by fully implementing the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. We have attempted to provide an itemized list of the good and bad of the 2023 session below, with a focus on the stuff we believe is most relevant to the FNPS mission to conserve native plants and native plant communities. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! What does the “end of session” actually signify? Governing, and law-making (legislating!), are a continuous process. Wins and

Legislative Delegation Season 2023

  WHAT A Legislative Delegation is an office within (most) county governments and the group of state-level legislators that represent that county. This group holds public meetings once a year in the Board of County Commissioners chambers or some other public meeting place. Past meetings have been between December and February, but as the legislative session has been pushed earlier in recent years the Delegations have too. This year delegations start in September. Members of the public who wish to speak must submit a completed Public Hearing Form well before the meeting, although in most cases citizens can show up and file a card on the spot to speak to the delegation. Every county in Florida has a legislative delegation, which consists quite simply of the members of the Florida Legislature that represent that county and its residents. Each of us lives in a House District and a Senate District, with the boundaries of those districts drawn so as to ensure that each of the 120 Representat

National Moth Week 2023 - The Gopher Tortoise Shell Moth

There is life after death, indeed. The gopher tortoise shell moth ( Ceratophaga vicinella ) is a species of moth that feeds on the keratin-rich shells of deceased gopher tortoises ( Gopherus polyphemus ), a keystone species in Florida. Tineid moths are one of the least flashy lepidopterans- comprising a large family of 3,000 species. Their drab appearance is eclipsed by their highly unusual dietary preference- fungus and detritus. Many Tineids feed on keratin, a fibrous protein forming the main structural constituent of hair, feathers, hoofs, claws, horns, and even fingernails. Extraction of nutrients from keratin is difficult and not a popular food source in the animal kingdom. The genus Ceratophaga within the Tineids are the only moths that specialize on hardened, dry keratin. The gopher tortoise shell moth is a fascinating cause for conservation. This species is only known to thrive on dead gopher shells- fewer tortoises mean fewer of this species, too. What’s more, these moths need

National Moth Week 2023 - The Small-Eyed Sphinx Moth

The small-eyed sphinx is a large moth with vivid blue eyespots on its yellow and black hindwings. Scientifically known as Paonias myops , it belongs to the Sphingidae (hawk moth) family. It has a broad distribution in North America ranging from southern Canada to almost the west coast. However, the population of this species is best represented in the eastern portion due to its affinity for woodlands. They are widely distributed east of the Cascades in riparian habitats along creeks and rivers at lower elevations, and in mixed hardwood forests at higher elevations. Adults are on wing from June to September in northern states where there are bivoltine (2 generations in a year). In Florida, they are polyvoltine (up to 4) due to warmer conditions. Paonias myops belongs to the Smerinthinae subfamily that is distinguished by their unusual resting position- where the hind wings remain visible while stationed under their forewings. The main body of the moth also has a pleasing curvature- as

National Moth Week 2023 - The Black Witch Moth

Ascalapha odorata , commonly known as the black witch, is of special significance to the author. A large bat-shaped, dark-colored nocturnal moth, the black witch ranges from the southern United States to Brazil. It is the largest night owl moth, or owlet moth, in the country. The black witch is more common in South Florida than other parts of the United States- chiefly because it favors tropical climates which makes sightings in the U.S. and Canada a rare treat. Adults are capable of flying great distances. They are known to be blown far north, away from their natural range, during severe weather events. The black witch is a frugivore- a lover of sugar-rich fruit. Adults of Ascalapha odorata feed on overripe rainforest fruit, especially bananas, and larvae consume tender, new leaves of plants. Most of its host plants are legumes (polyphagous on numerous Fabaceae species). It favors Acacia species, Kentucky coffeetree ( Gymnocladus dioicus ) and Locust trees ( Robinia sp.) in summers

National Moth Week 2023 - The Tulip-tree Beauty Moth

Epimecis hortaria, also known as the Tulip-tree beauty, is one of the largest moth species of the Geometridae family. Found in the Ennominae subfamily (also the largest within Geometridae) this moth is predominantly found in eastern North America ranging from southern Canada to Florida and into Texas. The Geometridae are famous for their inchworm caterpillars, some of which are serious agricultural pests. They can be seen flying from late March to early October in northern states; but in Florida, they can be on wing year round. Adults are nocturnal and are highly attracted to lights, much to the same extreme as imperial moths (a significant detriment to their populations in urban landscapes). It has a wingspan of 43–55 millimeters. There are two forms, one being "Dendraria" and the other being "Carbonaria" which correlate to patterns on their forewings (their subterminal line, specifically) The immature caterpillars can be found feeding on deciduous trees, including

National Moth Week 2023 - The Polyphemus Moth

The Polyphemus moth, scientifically known as Antheraea polyphemus , is a North American member of the family Saturniidae, as known as the giant silk moths. It is a tan-colored moth, with an average wingspan of 15 cm (6 in). The most notable feature of the moth is its large, purplish eyespots on its two hindwings. The center of the eyespots are transparent. These famous eyespots give it its name– from the Greek myth of the cyclops Polyphemus. Though part of the Saturniids much like the Imperial moth, Antheraea’s lineage is different. They come from the subfamily Saturniinae (the Imperial’s is Ceratocampinae, or the royal moths) and specifically the Saturniini tribe. Antheraeas form the tussar silk genus- a wild type of silk that has commercial value especially from its Asian representatives. This North American moth has a widespread range all over subarctic Canada and the United States. The caterpillar is renowned for its insatiable appetite and can eat 86,000 times its weight at emerge