Researchers hunting for one of the world’s rarest butterflies announced that they captured a single female in the mosquito-filled forest of Elliott Key.
That may not sound like much but the discovery last week gives scientists a shot at producing lab-bred Schaus swallowtails to boost a population that experts fear is fast fluttering toward extinction.
“It at least gives us some hope,’’ said Jaret Daniels, a University of Florida butterfly expert leading a recovery effort that includes state and federal wildlife agencies and Biscayne National Park.
The current 2013 article documents those actions that have been ongoing to deter (perhaps delay) what I feared in a June 13, 2012, South Dade Updates post: Butterfly on the brink. Another Florida species to go extinct in our lifetime? Interested readers will learn that: Decades ago, hundreds of Schaus swallowtails — hand-sized butterflies with brown-black wings accented by swirls of yellow – would typically be in the area called Petrel Point at this time of year, slowly flitting along trail edges and around the torchwood and wild lime trees that are prime “host plants” where they lay their eggs.
Last year, 35 were spotted on Elliott, another six in Key Largo. This year, they’re even fewer and very far between – five sightings overall since May 11, only three confirmed.
Because butterfly pupae can survive dormant for several years, biologists can mount capture efforts again if they strike out in this waning flight season. But without some boost from captive breeding, the Schaus could be fast slipping toward extinction.
Additional information from Cornell University, Insect Conservation Biology on the Papilio aristodemusponceanus, Shaus Swallowtail Butterfly
This is a somewhat good (but not great) news update to my prior post (and prior Miami Herald article) of June 28, 2012 : State declares Miami blue butterfly endangered. Florida Wildlife managers declared the Miami blue butterfly an endangered species back in June, 2012, noting that the tiny Miami blue butterfly, which once ranged from the Florida Keys to Daytona Beach, has been reduced to a few hundred survivors on islands off Key West. Its decline has been blamed on an array of threats, including pesticide spraying, development in its coastal habitat and exotic iguanas eating the plants it needs to reproduce.
It is not difficult to incorporate native species in creating or maintaining your backyard oasis.