The Endangered Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly

Dark brown butterfly with pale yellow accents sits on bright green leaves
A Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly in Biscayne National Park

University of Florida- Florida Museum of Natural History

Did you know that a highly endangered butterfly calls Biscayne home?

The Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly was once common throughout many parts of South Florida. Due to various threats, including collection, habitat loss, and broad-scale application of pesticides targeting mosquitoes, the Schaus Swallowtail butterfly’s numbers and geographic range both dwindled. Biscayne National Park, considered the stronghold for this endangered butterfly, contains the hardwood hammock habitat that this butterfly needs to survive. Even so, the population in the park was plummeting. By 2012, this species was on the brink of extinction.

To prevent this species from going extinct, the NPS has been partnering with biologists from the University of Florida/Florida Museum of Natural History and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The many-faceted approach to Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly conservation efforts includes:
  • Annual surveys to assess population status in their natural habitat
  • Collection of eggs and larvae for laboratory rearing (performed under a U.S Fish & Wildlife Service permit)
  • Release of lab-reared individuals back into the park to supplement the wild population
  • Habitat enhancements to remove invasive plant species that compete with the native host and nectar plants required by the Schaus.
As a result of all this hard work, Schaus Swallowtail butterfly numbers have been steadily increasing and visitors to the park may now be more likely to encounter this beautiful butterfly in its natural habitat!

How can YOU support the continued success of the Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly within Biscayne?
  • When exploring the hammock, stay on trails and avoid trampling vegetation.
  • Report locations of invasive plants to park personnel.
  • If you are fortunate to observe a Schaus, please enjoy it from a distance. Do not chase, attempt to capture, or otherwise harass this endangered species!
  • Help spread the story of the Schaus to others.
Images showing butterfly eggs on leaves and caterpillars raised in captivity
Schaus swallowtail eggs on vegetation (left), Caterpillars in a container (center), Schaus caterpillar in a cup (right).

University of Florida- Florida Museum of Natural History


Last updated: September 19, 2023

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