Friday, April 26, 2013

Sobering news during Earth Week: Butterflies in decline in South Florida? - Miami-Dade - MiamiHerald.com

Butterflies in decline in South Florida? - Miami-Dade - MiamiHerald.com
This is not the happy news that is created by releasing ladybugs. Behind the joys of Earth Week activities appear some rather sobering news: Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald reports that the butterflies are in trouble here in South Florida.
 
As Earth Week comes to a close for 2013, please think about what actions you are going to take yearlong to preserve our environment. Your part could be a simple as treating your pet directly rather than spraying your entire yard for fleas, after all, as our pet’s veterinarian told me, yard spraying also kills the good guys as well as any fleas. No butterfly has ever bitten my dog or cat, so let’s all be less indiscriminant in applying toxic yard sprays.
 
But no one cause has been identified:
 
“With a lot of these butterflies, we don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of them,’’ said Mark Salvato, the service’s lead butterfly biologist. “There are a whole bunch of factors that could be affecting them. It’s hard to find a smoking gun.’’
 
South Florida’s unceasing growth has clearly hastened the decline. Many of the area’s unique subspecies, originally blown in from Cuba, the Bahamas or other Caribbean islands, developed their distinctive colors or markings in the subtropical comfort of rocky pinewoods and hardwood hammocks, ecosystems now paved over or cut into small pieces.
 
But there are a long list of additional suspects: Pesticide spraying for mosquitoes can kill delicate larvae. Hurricanes and tropical storms can ravage habitat. Exotic predators have more recently emerged as a major concern, with iguanas eating essential “host plants” that shelter eggs and caterpillars. In some cases, invasive predatory ants may have supplanted native varieties that once protected butterfly larvae in symbiotic relationships.
 
A lack of breeding partners and genetic diversity also could cripple populations. Climate change and land management may also have impacts.
 
What is particularly puzzling is why many butterflies have declined in otherwise healthy habitats in places like Everglades and Biscayne National parks, protected area where mosquito spraying is prohibited.
 
Please take the time to read the complete article. The Miami Herald reports that only four butterflies were previously presumed extinct in North America, all in California:
 
Sthenele satyr butterfly – 1890s, San Francisco
Xerces blue – 1943, San Francisco
Strohbeen’s Parnassian – Santa Cruz, 1958
Atossa Fritillary – Tehachapi, 1959  
The present local butterfly blues are listed by Entomologist Marc Minno’ as:
 
Presumed extinct: Zestos skipper, rockland Meske’s skipper, Keys Zarucco Duskywing.
 
Vanished from region but possibly elsewhere: Bahamian swallowtail, nickerbean blue.
 
Imperiled and at risk of disappearing: Miami blue, Schaus’ swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, Florida white, Statira sulphur, Dina yellow, atala, amethyst hairstreak, silver-banded hairstreak, Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak, gray ministreak, Cuban crescent, tropical buckeye, malachite, Florida purplewing, dingy purplewing, Florida leafwing, Hayhurst’s scallopwing, Palatka skipper.
 
CLICK HERE to view prior articles dealing with our local South Florida Backyard Eco Systems (including State declares Miami blue butterfly endangered) or CLICK HERE for past Earth Week articles.  
 
Remember – Earth Week should not end at movie night.

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