Humans of NABA: Alexander R. Meza

Our Humans of NABA series continues, with the National Butterfly Center’s groundskeeper and educator, Alexander R. Meza!


Six years ago I was a sales representative getting paid ten dollars an hour selling home décor internationally, inside an air conditioned office. Living inside for half a decade I became depressed and unsatisfied. My mind and body were thirsty for something new, something exciting.

One day a good friend of mine mentioned a bird walk at the National Butterfly Center and, thinking nothing of it, I decided to give it a try. The next day I chose to return to work and immediately announce my two-week notice.

It’s been almost one year, now, observing nature and all its wild creatures. Feeding Green Jays and fox squirrels every morning with wild seeds and making fresh banana brew for the emperors and crackers in the hackberry trail.

Working at the National Butterfly Center and with the Captain has awakened my passion for nature photography and has changed my life. It feels great tending to a plant and talking to it only to see it bloom for you the very next morning.

I believe that nature is my therapy. I feel spiritually connected to the plants and wildlife, and I feel God led me to volunteer here, which ultimately led to my permanent job. I love having picnics under the Monarch Palapa and seeing all the chachalacas and queens circle around me.

My goal is to travel not only South Texas, but the world photographing wildlife. I dream of capturing something no one has ever seen before with my camera. I want to go back to school and get a degree in ornithology and be known for environmental conservation. I hope to one day help the people of South Texas wake up and realize that the Valley is not a boring place, but a wonderful, magical place full of insects, mammals, colorful birds and reptiles.
I am doing my part to protect this land for future generations to come. Me and my camera will change the world.


Events: Broward County Butterfly Chapter meeting Nov. 15th

The Broward County Butterfly Chapter, BCBC, invites you to their Nov 15, 2016 meeting. Rose Bechard-Butman presents “How to Create a NatureScape, a Habitat to Attract Wildlife and Butterflies.” Rose is the NatureScape Broward Outreach Coordinator; a Certified Arborist; a Master Gardener and National Wildlife Habitat Steward. She serves on many local boards and organizes programs and community projects that support sustainable landscapes and wildlife habitats. Meeting starts: 7pm, social hour: 6.30pm at the Broward County Extension Office, 3245 College Ave., Davie, FL 33314. For further info visit our website: or email

Events: Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club


The Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club will start with a pot-luck supper at 5:30 pm on Saturday, October 22, at Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Visitor’s Center, 414 Massasoit Rd, Worcester, MA 01604. During this meeting we will celebrate the 25th ANNIVERSARY of the founding of the club. In lieu of a guest speaker, we’ll encourage attendees to reminisce about the special moments in the club’s history. Be prepared to share the funny, inspiring and meaningful experiences you’ve had that have made the club a special part of your life. And if you’re not a member of the club, you are most welcome to join us anyway if you’re interested in learning about this very special group of butterfly advocates

Taxonomy Tuesday: Lycaeninae (Coppers)

image(American Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, photographed by  Frank Model – 5/1/2007 Petersham, Massachusetts)

The first in our new series to better learn our butterfly taxonomy, we’ll take a look at the subfamliy of Lycaena, the gossamer-winged Coppers. Here’s a broad selection of them to check out! Notice the morphological similarities:

image(male Bronze Copper, Lycaena hyllus, photographed by Frank Model – 10/4/2007 in the Wayland Community Gardens, Wayland, Massachusetts)

image(female Bog Copper, Lycaena  epixanthe, taken 06/17/2010 in Ocean County, New Jersey)

Here’s the Massachusetts chapter’s big page on Coppers! Enjoy:




Butterfly Gardening: Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)


(Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar hanging out on its host plant Chamaecrista fasciculata)

Also known as Showy Partridge Pea, Sensitive Plant, and Sleepingplant, Patridge Pea is native from southern Florida to northern Minnesota, It looks best when planted in groups and is easy to include in most medium to large size gardens. A short-lived perennial that is grown as an annual, partridge pea has bright yellow flowers that incorporate easily into many garden border combinations. Try pairing with liatris for contrasting colors and plant forms.

Partridge pea also provides pollen for a number of other insects and birds relish the seed pods that follow the flowers.



(Via, dark green areas represent where Partridge Pea is native, while light green areas represent where it is not native but common.)

Importance as a caterpillar food source: Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, and Little Yellow caterpillars all use partridge pea as a food source. All three of these butterflies range widely over the southern U.S., with Little Yellow’s range being restricted eastward.

Partridge pea is also used as a food source by Ceraunus Blue caterpillars which are common in far southern regions, usually late in the summer; found all year long in southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas.

Gray Hairstreak caterpillars also include partridge pea as a caterpillar food plant in addition to countless other plants.

Importance as a butterfly nectar source: A good nectar source that also attracts many pollinators in addition to butterflies.

Partridge Pea Cultural Requirements
USDA Hardiness Zone: Plant annually
Bloom Period: Summer to fall
Bloom Color: Yellow
Plant Height: 24 to 40 inches
Plant Spread:18 inches
Light Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Soil Moisture: Medium to dry
Animal/Pest Problems: None


Humans of NABA: Nestor Gonzalez

Nestor Gonzalez — Groundskeeper and Educator at the National Butterfly Center

“From the blistering cold, busy streets of Boston to the muddy backroads of sunny South Texas, I have been able to adapt to both lifestyles; however, I must admit that I was born for the outdoors. From the moonlit wee hours of the morning spent feeding our livestock to long hours of labor under the scorching skies in the gardens, here, it’s all good.

For a few weeks my career path was in Banking and Money Management. That is, until the day I came across an ad on Craigslist. I was so interested I applied. Little did I expect they would call within a week to schedule my first interview.

I was a nervous wreck that day. I was ill prepared, but so excited to go to the National Butterfly Center. It was March of 2014 and it had been raining. I didn’t care. Dress shoes and all I went trucking through the muddy Hackberry Trail. I couldn’t believe I saw an armadillo and all types of butterflies that I never knew existed.
I’ve been here about a year and a half, and now I educate kids about tarantulas! How cool is that? I have an African Spurred Tortoise for a best friend; and although I am sometimes embarrassed to admit I love the birds and butterflies, I can actually name a few.”

[Mike: Pictured below, Nestor and family! And a hungry turtle!]



Opportunities: Technical Coordinator Contract for MAFWA Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy

Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy
Technical Coordinator Contract Description

The Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (MAFWA) is seeking a contractor to provide technical coordination and plan-writing services to assist MAFWA’s member states, plus Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and other interested states with Monarch Conservation efforts. The successful candidate will be an independent contractor to MAFWA, eligible for monthly payments for work performed and for approved travel reimbursement; the position will not be eligible for benefits. To allow for better partnership and communication with the member states, the successful contractor will be provided office space in a state fish and wildlife office, ideally within the region (potential locations include Des Moines, IA; Lansing, MI; etc.) but location is negotiable, and provided with office equipment and support from that state.

MAFWA believes that the success of conserving the Monarch Butterfly will be dramatically improved if the many states engaged in conservation planning, implementation and monitoring are doing so in a coordinated way that both respects individual state autonomy and builds upon regional and national habitat and population goals. A hodge-podge of inconsistent state plans throughout the range of the eastern population of the Monarch Butterfly will not be as beneficial as a concerted and coordinated effort. Because of the importance of the region to monarch productivity and migration, it is likely that particular emphasis will be needed along what has come to be known as the “I-35 Corridor” and the Ohio River Valley – encompassing most of the MAFWA member states’ geography plus Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The primary goal of a state-drafted and -implemented Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy would be to account for the placement and priority of these efforts throughout the range through state fish and wildlife agencies, the organizations primarily responsible to manage wildlife and deliver wildlife conservation in the states. State fish and wildlife agencies are not only uniquely qualified to perform this work by virtue of their jurisdictions in state and federal law, but they are also connected to the myriad of partners and stakeholders engaged in and impacted by this work, including various conservation non-governmental organizations, transportation agencies, industrial and agricultural organizations, research institutions and other state agencies.

Looking forward, state fish and wildlife agencies will be able to utilize the Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy developed by this position to implement and monitor conservation actions on public lands and, through partners and stakeholders, additional private lands. This Strategy would contemplate considerations under the USFWS’s Policy for the Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (PECE Policy) regarding conservation actions which, if implemented, would potentially avoid the need to list the Monarch. However, if the USFWS determined that listing was warranted, the Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy could serve as a basis for developing a Recovery Plan, Habitat Conservation Plan, Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, or a Safe Harbor Agreement. Lessons learned in this effort may also help states as they address pollinator conservation more broadly in the future.

Scope of Services
Under the management of MAFWA’s Monarch Conservation Liaison and its Monarch Conservation Working Group, the contractor hired under this announcement, the Monarch Technical Coordinator, would provide the following services:
• Draft a Mid-Continent Monarch Conservation Strategy comprised primarily of state plans and as described in the background section above; provide reports and updates to and respond to inquiries as they may arise from various state and federal groups on the final Strategy
• Coordinate planning activities among the states consistent with agreed upon governance structures in drafting the Strategy
• Coordinate a steering committee comprised of technical staff to solicit input on planning efforts and share information among the technical resources that may be included in or considered by the Strategy
• Identify outreach efforts underway through various entities like the Monarch Joint Venture, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever and others and the state planning efforts to incorporate relevant elements in the Strategy
• Liaise with the MAFWA’s Monarch Conservation Liaison and AFWA’s Science Coordinator on state-led monarch conservation efforts and incorporate relevant actions into the Strategy
• Research, track and disseminate up-to-date information regarding relevant federal and state habitat conservation programs and policies related to monarch conservation. Provide information to lawmakers, congressional staff and agency leaders concerning legislation and policy, upon request.
• Represent, promote and act on behalf of MAFWA related to technical strategy development and coordination at national, regional and state meetings, including but not limited to: MAFWA Director’s annual conference, AWFA annual conference, and the North American Wildlife Conference. Host at least two meetings of state technical staff and other partners, both during the strategy development and upon completion, to seek input and provide guidance for implementation.
• Submit written monthly and annual activity reports MAFWA. Evaluate program milestones and recommend changes to initiative direction to the state agency directors as needed. Administer a budget that accounts for all expenditures and submit periodic budget reports.

All work shall be agreed upon and subject to an executed contract between the parties, based on the laws and jurisdiction of the state of Kansas, the state in which MAFWA is incorporated.

The ideal contractor would be able to start by December 15, 2016. The Strategy must be completed by March 1, 2018, to be presented at the North American Wildlife Conference in March of 2018. The contractor will then be available to deliver updates on and make any necessary refinements to the Strategy through June 30, 2018. The Contract will terminate June 30, 2018, unless terminated earlier in accordance with the contract.

The contractor must have graduated from an accredited college or university with a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree in Wildlife Management, Entomology, Biological Sciences, or related field of study; and at least two years of professional experience in natural resources management or policy development. Additional consideration will be given to candidates with additional relevant experience, satisfactory performance of similar services, or education. A graduate degree in a related field is preferred and can be substituted for experience.

Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities of the Contractor: Current knowledge of monarch ecology and management; an understanding of the relevant national conservation programs and policies; ability to communicate and coordinate with a diverse array of federal, state, non-governmental, and constituency groups regarding policy, research, habitat conservation, and related issues, programs, and practices; ability to write, particularly technical planning documents; ability to use computer and basic office software; and ability to travel.

A not to exceed amount to be paid for services rendered under the resulting contract is expected to be $80,000 a year, pro-rated and payable in monthly installments. Additional pre-approved travel and material costs will be provided as required and authorized by the contract

How to Apply
Persons interested in this contract opportunity should submit a resume and cover letter to MAFWA’s Director-representative on Monarch Conservation, Kelley Myers, at, by 4:00pm, Central Time, on October 24, 2016. Late submissions will not be considered. The resume and cover letter should address each of the qualifications included above. The cover letter should address the scope of services elements above; however, it is limited to not more than three pages. Potential contractors may be subject to an interview process.

Antidiscrimination Statement:
MAFWA is a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the state of Kansas and is funding this opportunity with funds from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Consistent with the laws of the state of Kansas and requirements of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, MAFWA does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, handicap and/or disability in any program or activity.

Education (Georgia Piedmont Chapter): Tunes, Wings and Smiles


Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000167 EndHTML:0000001245 StartFragment:0000000457 EndFragment:0000001229

Tunes, Wings and Smiles

by Virginia C. Linch

Matt Rogers, local country singer on tour now, stopped by the Butterflies & Blooms in the Briar Patch pollinator habitat this week to the surprise of Mrs. Jill Turners 2nd grade Gatewood class. Many thanks to Sylbie Yon for coordinating this visit. Matt was sitting on PaPa’s Porch with guitar in hand ready to strum when the children ran down to greet him. Matt quickly launched into a great song about dragon flies and then had all clapping to his rendition of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. Mrs. Turner had scheduled this tour of the habitat in conjunction with her teaching plan. The children were shown many different species of butterflies in different stages by habitat project leader, Virginia C. Linch. Each child was given a Georgia Butterfly ID guide and a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar to watch change in their classroom.

You can visit the Georgia Piedmont chapter website at




Gardening: Summer Tour – by Marcus Brandon Gray – Part 2


Musconetcong Watershed Association

Many people may not realize but North Jersey is characterized by the same Appalachian Mountains as western Virginia that stretch all the way to Georgia and Alabama. In fact, North Jersey and Southwest Virginia are in the same Appalachian Bird Conservation Region (28, The Musconetcong River occupies an area dominated by maple, white ash and sycamore along its banks and floodplain up to forested ridges with a uniform canopy of hardwoods. The area has invasive species issues with multiflora rose, Japanese knotweed, barberry and more.

The native plant gardens and meadow of the MWA’s River Resource Center ( in Asbury, NJ are worth a visit! Dedicated Trustees and Volunteers for the organization host a Native Plant Sale every year drawing plant material from multiple local nurseries that do not use systemic pesticides which are harmful to pollinators. Since construction of the RRC, the gardens surrounding the building have featured a wide variety of plants that bloom throughout the season. The site features a 10-year old riparian buffer and multiple beds that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Some species are a single individual plant within hundreds of plants of different species. Many of the plants found on the site are perennial and woody but there is plenty of herbaceous growth. The meadow below the RRC has been a work in progress for 7 years with native, herbaceous perennials being interplanted with grasses. A mowed trail and benches provide easy access and the ability to sit and enjoy all the activity!

I have reached out to the primary people responsible for management of the garden and have canvassed them to certify through NABA. It would be a great addition to the program.


Powhatan Wildlife Management Area

Central Virginia is where the hardwood forest and horse farms transition to pine plantations and row crops of the Tidewater Region. 40 minutes west of Richmond on US 60, the area still retains rural charm in the face of ever-expanding sprawl. The property gets a good amount of use year round due to its proximity to the capital city. There is a nice loop trail that takes you across the berm of one lake on the way out and a second on the way back. All the while you traverse a white oak-dominated forest with enough light on the trails to promote understory growth.

I arrived a few days after a heavy rain so depressions in and adjacent to the dirt access roads has exposed mud in the 90-degree heat. The exposed mud was very attractive to butterflies. Simulating this process in your garden could earn you more butterfly attention! There were dozens and dozens of butterflies “puddling” from Eastern Tiger Swallowtails to many American Snouts.

The amazing find was a buttonbush on the edge of one of the lakes with 10 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails nectaring on it. The plant was moving with large butterflies! If you have a water feature in your garden or have other appropriately low, wet places – consider adding a buttonbush.


Drew University

In mid-August, I found myself on campus of Drew University in Madison, NJ. Between the Hall of Sciences Greenhouse and route 124 (Madison Ave.) there is a lovely little pollinator garden. This suburban oasis features park-like oaks that leave gaps large enough periodically to situate gardens like this in full sun. The bed is comparable in size to something a homeowner might create (about 1/16th to 1/8th of an acre). Interplanted throughout the simulated prairie are Milkweed, Coneflower, Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, partridge pea, small sunflowers and several more in smaller amounts. The site was simply buzzing with native bees and wasps – crawling with beetles. There were no butterflies seen but I know some had to have been there earlier in the season when the coneflowers weren’t as far gone. Multiple species within the planting were past but there were late bloomers coming on.

At the entrances to two enclosures (fenced to prevent deer browse), Faculty and students have planted a variety of native woodland and woodland opening species to increase richness and study. The planting just within Hepburn Woods was truly spectacular in relation to its size the day I visited. Joe Pye Weed was in full force and extremely active with butterflies and bees. Pokeweed, cardinal flower, tall phlox and dozens of natives are situated in a forest clearing with a wide bed of mulch as you approach. I saw 10 Silver-Spotted Skippers, 2 Cabbage Whites (athletic fields are nearby), 1 Pipevine Swallowtail and 1 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail during my brief trip.

At the time of writing, I began the process of communicating with Drew University Staff about NABA certification and other partnership opportunities. I look forward to visiting more gardens for the remainder of the butterfly flight season. Hopefully, I’ll run into some of you in the field!