This July, visitors are invited to see the only population of rare regal fritillary butterflies in Pennsylvania at Fort Indiantown Gap, near Annville, Lebanon County.
Free guided tours will depart at 10 a.m. on July 3, 4, 10, and 11. Those wishing to attend should arrive at least 30 minutes early to fill out necessary paperwork, attend a mandatory safety and orientation briefing, and receive driving instructions. Tours will last approximately three hours, but attendees can leave earlier if needed. Attendees should be prepared to provide their vehicle make, model, year, color, license plate number and insurance carrier.
Participants will meet at the Area 12 picnic grove, located at the intersection of Asher Miner Road, Clement Avenue and Route 443.
Visitors of all ages are encouraged to bring cameras, binoculars, insect repellant, sunscreen, and should wear appropriate clothing and footwear for a nature walk on gravel trails or mowed paths. Drinking water will be provided. No reservations are required and no rain dates will be scheduled.
The tours also will include information related to current efforts to restore native grassland habitat across Pennsylvania as well as current efforts to raise regal fritillary caterpillars from eggs in a lab with support from the PA Wild Resource Conservation Program and in partnership with ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park and Temple University. The ultimate goal is to return the regal fritillary to areas where they were located historically.
“The restoration of native grasslands and the repatriation of the regal fritillary butterfly at Fort Indiantown Gap is a great example of how military installations can both successfully accomplish their mission and safeguard plant and wildlife,” said Lt. Col. Robert Hepner, commander of Fort Indiantown Gap. “The annual butterfly tours provide our greater community an excellent opportunity to visit the regal fritillary butterfly environment and understand our dedication to the sustainability of the natural resources of Fort Indiantown Gap.”
Fort Indiantown Gap currently provides habitat for 40 species of mammals, 249 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles and amphibians, 27 species of fish and many notable species of invertebrates including 83 species of butterflies and 241 species of moths. This includes excellent populations of deer, turkey, bear, bobcat, rabbit, squirrel, wild trout, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and songbirds. The installation covers more than 17,000 acres, including approximately 1,000 acres of scrub oak and pitch pine scrubland and 4,500 acres of native grassland habitat – the largest in the commonwealth.
Fort Indiantown Gap is also the only live-fire, maneuver military training facility in Pennsylvania. It balances one of the region’s most ecologically diverse areas with a military mission that annually supports 19,000 Pennsylvania National Guard personnel and more than 130,000 other states’ Guard, military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel each year.