Courtney Gale is a graduate of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. She holds a Bachelors degree in journalism.
Environment – There is a new addition to the Florida endangered species list; the Hemiargus thomasi or Miami Blue. In the 1970s, abundant along the Florida Coast and south to the Florida Keys, these petite, colorful, and once widespread butterflies had once been taking up residence in a small sanctuary at Bahia Honda State Park. However, there have been no confirmed sightings of the species in the park since July of 2010.
With the ever ongoing coastal development, the six month “hurricane season,” and the never ending war against Florida’s greatest enemy; the mosquito, it’s surprising this tiny, inch-long Lepidoptera was able to survive, much less thrive.
“You could always swat them away. There were hundreds. I’m sure thousands of people walked by with Miami Blues flying around them,” said Jaret Daniels, a butterfly specialist at the University of Florida.
Now it’s believed that iguanas are driving the Miami blue into extinction by eating the the leaves of the balloon vine and yellow nickerbean, where the butterflies lay their eggs.
Speaking of attempts to save the species, Jim Duquesnel, a biologist at Bahia Honda State Park, “We want them to find this a good place to be [breeding] like they used to. In this case, that means it will be lacking in iguanas.”
In 2002, the University of Florida’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera Research made an effort at a captive colony of Miami Blues to try to extend the species. The iguanas won that battle and in the last few years, the weather has become a culprit. Still, enthusists keep hoping that there may be a small colony in the Keys, just waiting for a fashionably late entrance.