Florida researcher publishes book on butterfly conservation and landscaping for Floridian gardenersMay 05, 2022 12:10PM ● By Ashley Hunter
“I knew from when I was a small kid that I wanted to pursue some nature-based career,” said Dr. Jaret Daniels, an associate professor at the University of Florida, an assistant director and assistant curator at The Florida Museum, as well as a lepidoptera researcher and insect conversationalist. “Insects always intrigued me.”
Lepidoptera is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths, and is a study in which Dr. Daniels has invested much of his life and career.
Growing up in rural Wisconsin, Dr. Daniels said he received plenty of opportunities to explore the childhood pastime of catching insects, but while many others were interested in how to distance human lives from the creepy-crawlies, Dr. Daniels says he began looking for ways to encourage a sort of common relationship between humans and insects, especially bugs.
“Most people at that time were focused on insect prevention,” Daniels says, adding that conservation of insects, including butterflies, was a fairly unexplored terrain. “It was a great opportunity for me.”
Today, Dr. Daniels works on developing sustainable pollination strategies, the study and survey of several endangered or hyper-localized butterfly species, and generally bettering the lifespans of American pollinators and the humans who depend on them.
Dr. Daniels’ fields of study and research focus heavily on imperiled species recovery, crop pollination, insect conservation (with a focus on pollinators and lepidoptera), and ecology along traffic roadways.
His interest in insects was deepened by a personal interest in landscapes, which is partly how his newest book, Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening came to be.
While not a new title, since the guide was first published as a paper in 2000, Dr. Daniels has recently republished the work through the University Press of Florida, which will make it more accessible to the general public - not just academics.
“As a researcher you publish papers on what you discover. You’re lucky if 20 people read those papers,” said Dr. Daniels. “What we are trying to do is reach more people, and one of the ways to do that is through a book.”
The newly-republished guide on butterfly gardens is an extensive overview of the butterflies that visit Floridian gardens, the plants that attract them, and how Floridian gardeners can turn their lawn into a butterfly paradise.
“It provides a really in-depth how-to for gardeners,” said Dr. Daniels. “It will help gardeners when they visit the plant nursery to really know and understand which plants will draw in butterflies.”
Your Florida Guide to Butterfly Gardening discusses the life stages of butterflies, an understanding on the need for conversation and gardening with pollinators in mind, and a lesson on biodiversity.
The guide also covers common butterflies in Florida with guides on how to identify them, listings of plant species that are attractive to butterflies, and resources on how to help with the mission of pollinator (and butterfly) conservation.
The first edition of Dr. Daniels’ guide was under 100 pages, but this newly published second edition is “much more extensive,” with over 240 pages of information, illustrations, and direction on how to improve the lives of butterflies in your area.
“It is fully up to date,” Dr. Daniels adds.
The book is meant for everyone - from master gardeners with years of experience under their belts, to new homeowners who are looking for information on how to convert their yard into a butterfly habitat.
“Whether you’re someone who is just starting a butterfly garden, or if you are a little more experienced, there will be something for you,” said Dr. Daniels.
This is not Dr. Daniels’ first such guide, either.
He has previously written books about native plant gardening for birds, bees, and butterflies in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southern United States, and insect books for children.
He hopes that this book will give Floridian gardeners the information they need to create their own butterfly sanctuaries in their backyards.
But he also hopes that this book will get people more interested in landscaping with wildlife in mind, and pay more attention to the natural world around them.
“If this inspires people to pay attention and get involved, I will consider that an accomplishment,” he said.