Date of Award

Spring 2014


Environmental Science


Dr. Barry Allen

Committee Member

Dr. Lee Lines

Committee Member

Dr. Paul Stephenson


This study analyzes the relationship between butterfly (Lepidoptera) populations and host plants in a natural sandhill (Wekiwa Springs), a butterfly garden (Leu Gardens), and an urban landscape (Central Park). The Traditional Butterfly Monitoring Scheme is the chosen method for data collection on Lepidoptera populations over a span of nine visits from October - December 2013. Paired t-tests and ANOVA with post hoc Scheffé tests indicate significant correlations between the average number of host plants and overall Lepidoptera abundance, richness, and diversity scores. The life history features of Lepidoptera distributions serve as tools for assessing biodiversity in Central Florida’s natural environment and anthropogenic realms.

These results show that the availability of host plants plays a significant role in determining Lepidoptera populations in all three Central Florida habitats. When there are adequate host plants, Lepidoptera abundances thrive, while fewer resources coincide with smaller populations. As anticipated, the butterfly garden has the greatest average number of host plants (1.67 ± 0.09 per meter) and respective overall Lepidoptera abundance (153 individuals). On the other hand, the natural sandhill has a far higher proportion of specialist species (79%) in comparison to the urban sites, and is the only habitat in this study to support the proposed endangered species, Anaea floridalis (Florida leafwing).

With further evidence of species moving northward in response to climate change and habitat loss, it is of utmost importance to ensure the protection of natural habitat and ample host plants. Each of the study sites in this investigation serves as important stepping stone habitat for migratory Lepidoptera species in Central Florida. This study recommends ongoing fire management to support the majority of specialist butterflies and Anaea floridalis present in the sandhill habitat at Wekiwa Springs. Although one of the biggest threats to wildlife is habitat loss, there is strong evidence supporting the usefulness of butterfly gardens as patch habitats in urban landscapes. In order to protect a healthy environment for Lepidoptera and promote biodiversity, Florida should continue protecting and managing sandhill habitat, as well as increase host plant availability through planting butterfly gardens in the urban landscape.