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Schaus' swallowtail

Schaus' swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus) occupied mature tropical hardwood hammocks from South Miami to Lower Matecumbe Key in the Florida Keys in 1911. Habitat loss to housing developments, insecticide spraying, and overcollection extirpated the species from the mainland in 1924, and from the Lower and Upper Matecumbe Keys in the 1940s.

The species is currently known from 13 areas on the mainland and the Upper and Middle Keys. It occurs from southern Miami-Dade County through the Keys in Biscayne Bay and north to southern Key Largo in the Upper Keys, to Lower Matecumbe Key in the Middle Keys. It is concentrated in the insular portions of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, from Elliott Key and associated smaller Keys to central Key Largo.

Several hundred Schaus's swallowtails could still be seen on regular basis on north Key Largo in 1972, but the species declined dramatically in 1973 when the local mosquito control district began sparying Dibrom and Baytex as mosquito insectices in the keys [1]. It was listed as a threatened species in 1976, continued to decline, and was upgraded to endangered status in 1984. By that time it was reduced to less than 70 butterflies on Elliot and Old Rhodes Key within Biscayne National Park and on north Key Largo [1]. The 1988 population was 700-850 [6]. Hurricane Andrew devastated the Biscayne National Park stronghold in 1992, resulting in a count of just 57 butterflies in the Park and Key Largo [1]. The population bounced back to 600 by 1994 [2]. The combined effect of a reintroduction program begun in approximatley 1993 and several years of normal rainfall helped the population to reach of high of 1,200-1,400 in 1996-1997 [1, 4]. Drought and Hurricane George hit south Florida in 1998, leaving a population of just 350 butterflies in 2001 [3] and 190-230 in 2004 [4].

[1] Danniels, J.C. and T.C. Emmel. 2004. Florida Golf Courses Help Save Endangered Butterfly. Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online, 3(11):1-7. http://usgatero.msu.edu/v03/n11.pdf
[2] Yanno, M. 1996. New Hope for the Schaus Swallowtai. Endangered Species Bulletin, Vol. XXI, No. 4.
[3] Environmental Defense. 2001. Cheeca Lodge Safe Harbor Agreement for the Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly.
[4] Black, S. H., and D. M. Vaughan. 2005. Species Profile: Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus. In Shepherd, M. D., D. M. Vaughan, and S. H. Black (Eds). Red List of Pollinator Insects of North America. CD-ROM Version 1 (May 2005).
Portland, OR: The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
[5] USFWS. 1999. Multi-species Recovery Plan for South Florida (Revision 5/18/99). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, GA.
[6] USFWS. 1991. Endangered and Threatened Species of the Southeastern United States. http://www.fws.gov/endangered/i/i/sai02.html
[7] USFWS. 1982. Recovery Plan for the Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia. 57 pp.

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