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Biscayne National Park Surveyed For Endangered Schaus' Swallowtail Butterfly

June 14, 2011

Concern over the apparent decline of an endangered butterfly has prompted biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and others to organize intensive field surveys to look for the Schaus' swallowtail butterfly in North Key Largo and Biscayne National Park.

Once found in tropical hardwood hammocks from south Miami to the lower Keys, Schaus' swallowtails (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus) are now limited to the upper Keys and Biscayne National Park. Adult swallowtails have a very short life span, typically living for only two weeks.

FWC biologists are coordinating a multiagency and multiorganization effort to count adult Schaus' swallowtails. Butterfly enthusiasts and volunteers with the North American Butterfly Association and the Florida Natural Areas Inventory are conducting the majority of the surveys. The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Florida are also providing assistance and support.

"We've never had this many people surveying at one time," said FWC regional biologist and project coordinator Ricardo Zambrano. "The goal of the survey is to get an estimated count and distribution of the individuals so the FWC and its partners can identify actions needed to conserve the subspecies" of Heraclides aristodemus.

Surveyors are walking though trails in swallowtail habitat, counting adult individuals and recording locations of where they are observed. Surveys are occurring several times a week in both locations.

The Schaus' swallowtail is a federally endangered and state-threatened subspecies. A combination of factors, such as habitat loss, pesticide use and illegal collection, are suspected to be responsible for its decline. Weather events, including hurricanes and droughts, also have adversely impacted the population.



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