Florida Museum researchers are spearheading the effort to re-establish populations of Miami blues in the wild. Florida Museum photo by Jeff Gage
Once common throughout coastal southern Florida, the Miami blue butterfly now ranks among North America’s rarest insects.
While the main driver of the butterfly’s swift decline is unknown, tropical storms, habitat loss and coastal development have dramatically shrunk the Miami blue’s range. The only remaining wild populations of Miami blues live in the Key West and Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuges where they remain vulnerable to climate change, hurricanes and dry spells.
Florida Museum of Natural History researchers are leading collaborative conservation and recovery efforts for Miami blue butterflies by monitoring wild populations, breeding the butterfly in the laboratory and closely studying its ecology to learn how to effectively re-establish it in the wild.
Endangered Butterflies in a Changing Climate
To better reach more people about this at-risk species, the Daniels Lab partnered with several organizations on an exhibit to tell the story of the Miami blue butterflies.
Jaret Daniels’ lab at the Florida Museum of Natural History is spearheading the effort to study the biology of the Miami blue butterfly and effectively re-establish it in the wild.
The eggs of the Miami blue butterfly are about the size of grains of coarse sea salt.
The tiny, slug-like Miami blue larvae are regularly tended by ants, which provide protection from other insect predators in return for sugary food rewards.
Miami blue butterfly larvae range in color from green to brown to red, blending in with their host plants, the gray nickerbean and Florida Keys blackbead.
The Miami blue remains in the pupal stage for 10-14 days before emerging as an adult.
A Miami blue butterfly dries its wings after emerging from its chrysalis.
Adult butterflies need an energy-rich diet. In Jaret Daniels’ lab, Miami blues feed on Gatorade, a substitute for nectar.
Miami blue butterflies use many types of flowers for nectar.
Only two or three populations of Miami blue butterflies remain in the wild, inhabiting remote islands in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge where they are vulnerable to climate change and tropical storms.
To help raise support for the Miami blue’s recovery, the Florida Museum partnered with First Magnitude Brewing Co. to produce a new limited-edition beer, Miami Blue Bock. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the beer, themed drinking glasses and T-shirts funds the Museum’s Miami blue research program.
This partnership has produced a number of beers to call attention to at-risk species and conservation efforts.