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Schaus’ Swallowtail

  • Schaus’ Swallowtail
  • Schaus’ Swallowtail
  • Schaus’ Swallowtail
  • Schaus’ Swallowtail
  • Schaus’ Swallowtail caterpillars
  • Schaus’ Swallowtail caterpillar
  • Schaus’ Swallowtail caterpillars

Once abundant in the greater Miami area and the Florida Keys, these endangered butterflies are now limited primarily to Biscayne National Park. The Schaus’ population has rebounded significantly due in part to University of Florida conservation efforts and breeding programs.

Story

Schaus Swallowtail by Jaret Daniels

The critically endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail is a large, iconic butterfly found in South Florida. Additional subspecies occur in the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola. Historically, the butterfly inhabited dense upland forests called tropical hardwood hammocks from the greater Miami area south through the Florida Keys. Habitat loss and fragmentation over the past century have led to severe population declines and range reductions.

Prompted by the significant declines, the Schaus’ Swallowtail was listed as federally threatened in 1976, being the first insect listed under the Endangered Species Act along with the Bahamian Swallowtail. This status was later elevated to endangered in 1984.

The devastating impact of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 further reduced population numbers. Today, Schaus’ Swallowtail is restricted to only a few remaining sites in the northern Florida Keys, making it one of the rarest butterflies in the U.S. and our only federally listed swallowtail. Although small numbers occur on northern Key Largo, the main population stronghold resides on the islands of Biscayne National Park.

The current risk of extinction is thought to be very high, as recent surveys revealed extremely depressed population numbers with a low of only four individuals found range-wide in 2012. In response, collaborative conservation recovery efforts led by the Florida Museum of Natural History are underway. They include regular population monitoring, captive breeding, organism reintroduction and habitat restoration.

Jaret Daniels
Director, McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity
Florida Museum of Natural History

Summary

Schaus’ Swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus)
From Miami-Dade Co., Florida, 1970s

Exhibit Area

On the Brink

Theme

Success Story

Schaus’ SwallowtailRadha Krueger