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
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.