The Rambles come back after a trip down to scenic Elliot Key, one of the jewels of South Florida, a hidden paradise everyone should experience once in their lives. I’m totally kidding, the place is a mosquito ridden nightmare that only the most insane dare tread in the hotter months of the year. So then why bother? Aside from the wealth of tropical flora the thin stretch of land has to offer, it is one of the last bastions of the endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus). As many of you are aware, Dr. Jaret Daniels has been leading a project to save this beautiful and large species. Generally, the Schaus’ Swallowtail has one generation a year, falling around April to June.
Each year, teams go down to survey the population, take stock of conditions on the island, release captive bred adults into the wild and the like. As a part of Biscayne National Park, the island is not sprayed at all for mosquitoes, meaning the butterfly is safe from such risks, but it means anyone going out there cannot have exposed skin. Combined with the hammock blocking ocean breeze and heavy rains, it makes for an interesting experience. I always enjoying going and always see something new. And despite everything I’ve said I think everyone should experience it once.
Florida Museum photos by Ryan Fessenden