National Park Service

South Florida/Caribbean I&M Network (SFCN)

Butterfly Monitoring

Female Schaus in holding enclosure after being captured for a University of Florida captive breeding program.
Female Schaus in holding enclosure after being captured for a University of Florida captive breeding program.

Monitoring within Biscayne National Park

Protocol

Parks and partners are monitoring butterflies. SFCN is not developing a protocol but will link to reports and summaries.

Resource Briefs, Reports, and Data

There are currently no additional SFCN resource briefs, reports, or data concerning this monitoring topic.

Importance/Issues

Butterflies are a good indicator because they are important pollinators that reflect changes in plant communities, have strong species specific ties between caterpillars and host plants along with the butterfly and nectar plants. Butterflies can also indicate impacts from pesticide use. Schaus Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus) is a Federal endangered species and the Miami blue butterfly (Hermiargus thomasi benthunebakeri) is a candidate for Federal listing. Butterfly information could be useful in directing park based mosquito control activities in areas of rare butterflies.

Monitoring Objectives

What are the status and trends in abundance and distribution of butterflies?

Status and Trends

Schaus swallowtail status

For the latest updates on the status of the Schaus Swallowtail in Biscayne National Park, check the Biscayne National Park Schaus Swallowtail Emergency webpage.

Schaus Swallowtail habitat enhancement project

Figure 1. Volunteers working to remove weeds and dig holes in hardwood hammock at Elliott Key.
Figure 1. Volunteers working to remove weeds and dig holes in hardwood hammock at Elliott Key.

The SFCN, Florida and Caribbean Exotic Plant Management Team (FLACO EPMT), and Biscayne National Park (BISC) were awarded a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Coastal Program to fund habitat enhancement for the federally endangered Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus). The project goal is to restore its critical habitat by removing invasive plants and planting host and nectar plants on Elliott Key and Adam's Key in BISC. We collected host plant seeds, torchwood (Amyris elemifera) and wild lime (Zanthoxylum fagara), and reared them in a nursery. The goal is to plant 5,000 seedlings through the end of 2014 (FY14). Additionally, this project has an educational component to increase public awareness and instill stewardship through interpretive signage, volunteering, and outreach. Funds from this project have supported a Resource Monitoring Internship (ReMI) position, filled by Craig Perry, who has overseen a vast amount of the field work for this project. Jaeson Clayborn, a Ph.D. student at Florida International University, is also working with us while doing his dissertation research on the Schaus swallowtail. The BISC environmental education division has incorporated this project into their educational presentations, including an educational outreach day with Doral Academy High School.

Figure 2. Air-layered torchwood at Elliott Key.
Figure 2. Air-layered torchwood at Elliott Key.

SFCN and other NPS staff and volunteers spent 2,115 field hours working on this project in 2013. To date, we have planted 2,007 torchwood, 445 wild lime, and 96 nectar plants, for a grand total of 2,548 plants. Plantings took place at Elliott Key in the main breezeway restoration area, and Spite Highway restoration area. Additional plantings took place in Adam's Key in the main restoration area and the breezeway restoration area. Constant maintenance has been done in these areas including herbicide application, removal of noxious weeds, and watering of seedlings (Figure 1). This is necessary as plants are not yet mature enough to shade out understory and prevent weed growth. We have collected torchwood seeds from the wild and this last year there was low seed production; so alternative methods of growing torchwood are being pursued. We have attempted to generate more host plants through cloning by air layering (186 branches) and cuttings (500) with the help of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Figure 2). In preparation for future planting we have dug, covered, and flagged 1,427 new holes in Elliott Key along Spite highway (Figure 1).

Figure 3. An alternative spring break group from Martin's Ferry High School at BISC headquarters after a day of volunteering on the project.
Figure 3. An alternative spring break group from Martin's Ferry High School at BISC headquarters after a day of volunteering on the project.

Spatially explicit data has been collected documenting plant species, survivorship, growth vigor, and larval recruitment (caterpillars). Data shows overall survivorship of 70.5%, and torchwood (the preferred host plant) survivorship of 66.8%. No Schaus larval recruitment has been recorded on the new plants; however, we have observed larval recruitment of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (a close relative). SFCN staff assisted the North American Butterfly Association and the University of Florida in butterfly/caterpillar surveys in spring 2013. SFCN personnel documented Schaus swallowtail butterflies and larvae at Elliott Key. The University of Florida captured several Schaus swallowtails which were released after laying eggs for their captive breeding program. Educational/outreach presentations have been given at conferences, seminars, lectures, and science symposia. Articles featuring this project were published in The Miami Herald, The Tropical Garden, and newsletters for the Florida Native Plant Society and the North American Butterfly Association. A podcast filmed by BISC features this project. Volunteer work days were done with the Sierra Club, Florida International University, Doral High School, and alternative spring breakers from Martins Ferry High School in Ohio (Figure 3). An educational sign has been created for the restoration areas, and shirts have been designed and are given out to reward volunteers and raise public awareness. A student from Florida International University continues to be employed through the Resource Monitoring Internship (ReMI) program to spearhead field efforts, collect data, and assist with project management.

The SFCN will continue to perform maintenance on the restoration areas in 2014. Seeds will be collected and germinated in the nursery, and seedlings will be planted in natural gaps and along Spite Highway on Elliott Key. Installation of interpretive signs at BISC will highlight the plight of the Schaus swallowtail butterfly.

Approach

Schaus swallowtail and other rare butterfly monitoring

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funding monitoring for the Schaus Swallowtail using butterfly experts. SFCN will not be conducting monitoring for this vital sign. Instead SFCN will work to link to park and/or partner monitoring summaries. As rare butterflies are subject to poaching and harassment, reports with specific coordinate locations of butterflies will not be posted.

Schaus swallowtail habitat enhancement project

The SFCN, South Florida and Caribbean Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT), and Biscayne National Park (BISC), were awarded a competitive grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Coastal Program to fund a project for habitat enhancement for the federally endangered Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus). The goal of this project is to supplement Schaus host plant populations in two current restoration areas on two keys in Biscayne National Park. This project is also meant to increase public awareness of the plight of the Schaus swallowtail and to instill stewardship through interpretive signs and volunteer and outreach programs. Seeds were collected from native populations of torchwood (Amyris elemifera) and wild lime (Zanthoxylum fagara) and reared in a contracted nursery. A total of 5,000 torchwood, wild lime, and nectar plants will be planted in the coastal hardwood hammocks over fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

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Last Updated: March 27, 2017 Contact Webmaster