Butterfly Goes Missing from Florida

In August of 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced an emergency listing of the Miami Blue Butterfly as endangered, “We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), exercise our authority pursuant to section 4(b)(7) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), to emergency list the Miami blue butterfly (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) as endangered. This subspecies is currently known to occur at only a few small remote islands within the Florida Keys. Current population numbers are not known, but are estimated in the hundreds of butterflies.”

It may have come too late, because no Miami blues have been reported on Bahia Honda since 2010, meaning they could have been driven into extinction. (Source: Seattle PI)

Miami blues were once found on both Florida coasts and in large numbers. Converting wild habitat to shopping malls, roads and residences reduced their area to virtually nothing. By the early 1990s they could only be found in the Keys.

After Hurricane Andrew, it was believed perhaps only 50 were left. From 2003 to 2010 scientists grew a population in the lab to 30,000 and then relocated them to the Keys. None of them survived. Then the last ones remaining in the wild at Bahia Honda also went into decline. The reason was thought to be invasive iguanas. These lizards were likely the descendants of former pets released by people who no longer wanted them, just like the pythons currently plaguing the Everglades. Iguanas were destroying the plants Miami blues using for laying their eggs.

The following related species in Florida are also imperiled:

Florida Leafwings
Bartram’s Scrub-Hairstreak
Martial Scrub-Hairstreaks
Zestos Skipper
Amethyst Hairstreak
Schaus’ Swallowtail

What is the point of the Endangered Species Act, if the species needing it most don’t get protected until they are already so low in numbers, they can’t recover, or are already gone? With climate change intensifying weather and disrupting habitats, it seems more likely the response to protect animals under the ESA needs to be much faster.

Image Credit: J Glassberg, NABA

Related Links
Two Species Go Extinct in Florida
Panther Kitten Released into Wild


Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Terry V.
Terry V5 years ago




Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Marianne B.
Marianne B5 years ago

Yes I heard of this tragic decline, and the causes of it. Sad to hear we will be seeing more stories like this in the future years.

Lindsay Kemp
Lindsay K5 years ago

What a shame - could it be attracted back, with a bit of encouragement? It's so beautiful!

paul m.
paul m5 years ago

Get the Counsil too grow the right plants in Parks and Gardens...

Mitchell D.
Mitchell D5 years ago

For those interested, J. Glassberg, credited with the photo above, is the president of the North American Butterfly Association, and has a very nice book out, called "Butterflies of North America."
Yes, the Endangered Species Act is fairly useless when used in the way it was in this, and many more cases.
Yet, there are people in Congress who have an agenda that is about destroying the act in total!

Sheryl McComb
Sheryl McComb5 years ago

Perfect example of man caused extinction. Who knows what this will do for the future? And the ESA does need to recognize animals way faster than having only 50 known to be in existence.

Teckla Wattman
Teckla Wattman5 years ago

So sad. Butterflies are so beautiful and yet they too are struggling to survive.