The critically endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus) is a large, iconic butterfly found in South Florida. 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. 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 Key Largo, the main population resides on islands in Biscayne National Park. Because recent surveys indicate extremely small numbers of butterflies throughout its range, the risk of extinction is thought to be very high. Collaborative conservation and recovery efforts are underway for the Schaus’ Swallowtail. They include regular population monitoring, captive breeding, organism reintroduction and habitat restoration.
In the News in 2021:
Video Highlight: Saving Schaus’ Swallowtail Butterflies
This video highlights our work with Schaus’ swallowtail and celebrates the record number of Schaus’ recorded in the 2021 season.
Video Highlight: Precious Cargo: First Class Caterpillars
This video shows one way we transport Schaus’ swallowtails from our lab in Gainesville to the Florida Keys for release.