Personal Bio and History of this Project
How did you get into moths?
When I was about 8 years old, my father retrieved an old box from his closet and took it into the dining room. The excited look on his face had me curious as to what was in the box. Little did I know that its contents and that experience would change my life for ever. One by one, he pulled out little paper triangle envelopes with tiny handwriting on them and warned me to be extremely careful that they were very fragile. As he opened the envelopes, inside each one was a 30-35 year old dried butterfly. My father was born and raised in Zambia, Central Africa, to missionary parents and from a young age, he and his brother Bob collected butterflies and with limited curating comprehension, were able to bring a few hundred specimens to the United States when they moved here in the late 60's. Specimen after specimen was revealed, each one like a priceless gem causing a similar reaction of taking our breath away. I listened to my dad talk about each specimen. He remembered each one intimately as they each had a big story attached to the beauty that the creature already had. My Uncle Bob and my dad loved the Charaxinid butterflies. They are a large strong-flying Nymphalid family whose members have striking patterns and colors. I will forever have an imaginary picture in my mind of "the Charaxes bush" that was in front of his friend's house in Africa. Apparently it oozed a sap that smelled like a brewery that drove these bugs crazy and they spent many hours at the base of that bush peering in at the branches looking for various Charaxes specimens. From that moment, I was hooked! I demanded that he make me a net immediately so I could begin exploring.
A Deep Love and Appreciation for Nature
The stories that my dad and my Uncle Bob told me about their childhood in Africa will always live deep in my heart. Although they never took entomology to the scientific level, my dad was able to show me why these creatures made such an impact on our hearts. Romans 1:20 states "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead so they are without excuse" My dad showed me that the power of this creature that it has in our hearts and minds is because they were created with infinite care and wonder by our God and the glory that we see in this little butterfly is not intrinsic of the butterfly itself but that God's creation reflects His glory and that we must not worship the creature but rather when we feel this wonder and joy because of His creation, we should give thanks in our hearts and worship and serve the CREATOR of these creatures. This understanding drew me deeper and deeper into a passion for butterflies and moths as well as deeper into my relationship with God as I wound up giving Him a lot of thanks. Each time I see a new bug, I see His fingerprints all over it and that wonder prompts me to pray and give thanks. Funny how things work; now I work full time as a pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and share about our natural world through butterflies and moths with as many as I can. The bible also commands mankind to tend to the earth take care of it. In my opinion, Christianity doesn't have the best track record in taking care of God's creation. This is a sincere passion of mind as I believe that Christians through our biblical mandate should be leading the charge to study, protect and respect the Lord's marvelous handiwork so generations to come will be able to have the opportunity to see the glory of God through creatures like butterflies and moths.
The Origin of the Keys Moth Project
This now brings me to this project. It began in 1999 when a dear old friend Leroy Koehn and I began making trips to the Keys looking for butterflies and moths. It was fascinating to me to discover how few people had ever done any comprehensive surveying on the moths of Monroe County. We had an incredible time getting to know each other while we rummaged through the hardwood hammocks of the Keys and stopped at any well-lit gas station or shopping center we could to see if any moths had been attracted to the lights over night and of course, make a pit-stop at the Waffle House in Key Largo for breakfast.
Around the same time we began spending time in the Keys, the Miami Blue butterfly was rediscovered on Bahia Honda Key, which caused a frenzy of activity. I made it a priority to search for additional colonies of this butterfly and literally walked up and down every accessible road, trail and path from Key West all the way to North Key Largo documenting habitats and host plant populations in an attempt to determine the creatures' state of existence. That search never turned up any additional Miami Blue colonies however in 2003, I stopped by the headquarters of Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Key Largo. There I met refuge manager Steve Klett. After a few meetings, the words of my dear friend Leroy Koehn came to mind about how little has been done in terms of surveying the moths of the Keys. After a discussion with Steve Klett, he agreed to give me a special use permit to survey the moths of North Key Largo in the National Wildlife Refuge. This would continue for 8 years and is now extended into (with a focus on) Key Deer Refuge in the Southern Keys where new species to the survey pop up almost every time we put out lights.
Where are we heading?
To date we have about 517 species identified through the survey and plenty of "UFO's" to determine. I've had an absolute blast in the Keys and greatly look forward to what will come from the project. My hope is to make this information readily available to anyone who is interested in the moth fauna in the Keys. This site is designed to be a place where I can house my findings over the last 16 years of work in the Keys. I welcome anyone to share any data, thoughts, ask questions etc as I wish for the creatures I've encountered and information I've obtained to be enjoyed by all. The vision of this project is to one day have compiled a complete photographic library of all of the moth species that reside in the Florida Keys. We are trying to document lifecycles of as many species as possible. This will likely be a life-long project that may never be complete but I'll have a blast along the way!
My Amazingly Supportive Family
On January 1st, 2006, I married the love of my life. My beautiful wife Noemi graciously supports this effort as "vacations" over the last 9 years or so have almost always wound up in the Keys, each night of which interrupted with a few hours of setting out black lights and bait traps. She is an amazing support as she sees how important this passion is for me and even comes out and spends some evenings out at a light sheet in the hardwood hammocks with me at times. Yes - that is true love! She has also given me two amazing children; Sofia and Lorenzo who have undoubtedly become my mothing "disciples". The time spent with my wife and kids and friends throughout this project has proven to be most impactful.
I want to thank my dad, Lawrence Fine, for discipling me in the Lord and in bugs, my mom - Debra Fine for showering me with love and allowing hundreds of boxes of bugs (both dead and alive) to reside in my bedroom for almost a decade. I thank Leroy Koehn, Dr. James Adams, Mark Walker and Jeff Slotten for helping me discover a scientific approach to the hobby. I would like to thank Jim Vargo, Dr. James Hayden, Dr. Charles Covell Jr. and Bob Belmont for helping me identify many of the species photographed on the site as well as Jim Troubridge for helping ID some bugs as well as his contribution to information and species lists from his surveying over the last few years in North Key Largo State Botanical Site, Curry Hammock in Marathon and on Bahia Honda Key. I thank Ron Boender for allowing me the privilege of being employed in the breeding laboratory at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida. This experience taught me how to breed butterflies and moths and document their life cycles. I thank Alan Chin-Lee who has become a dear friend and companion on so many of these surveying trips to the Keys. I thank my incredible wife, Noemi who puts up with the madness day in and day out! I love you babe! I'm eternally grateful for my two kids, Sofia and Lorenzo as they help dad set up equipment each time we come to the Keys. I thank the refuge managers and staff at US Fish and Wildlife Service who have provided me the opportunity to work in the few remaining natural areas in the Keys. I consider this opportunity a privilege for which I wish to express my sincerest gratitude. I thank my dear friend Luis Vinals for always just being there for me and encouraging me and helping me with vision and providing some equipment to the survey. I thank Howard Grisham who has supported the effort for years and helped make the Key Largo portion of the survey a huge success. But most of all, I want to thank my God and Savior Jesus Christ for He is by whom, through whom and for whom all of these things were created. Each time I see a new species, I thank You! It is an honor to discover Your handiwork!