Annual Butterfly Count Reveals Rare Find

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Date: April 8, 2014
Contact: Jennie Kish Albrinck, 760-367-5520
Contact: Michael Vamstadt, 760-367-5562

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Twentynine Palms, California –

On March 29, 2014, Joshua Tree National Park conducted its annual butterfly count. A dedicated group of local volunteers and park staff worked to catalog species found inside the park. The vast park wilderness areas support opportunities for ongoing scientific discovery. This year, researchers were rewarded for their continuing efforts when they found several mallow scrub-hairstreaks (Strymon istapa) near the Cottonwood area. This is a new butterfly species for the park, whose primary range is from Mexico south to Brazil with only a few U.S. populations along the southern border in California, Texas, and Florida. In California, this butterfly species is found mainly in San Diego and Imperial counties with only a few records in other adjacent counties. 

When trends of early emergence, or of new tropical organisms found further north than usual become evident, it could be important for monitoring phenology and climate change. Climate change poses a new set of challenges for the parks in preserving our natural heritage. As we grow closer to the Centennial of the National Park Service, we continue to manage these resources to increase resilience in the face of these changes. The appearance of the mallow scrub- hairstreak is a significant indicator for scientists. 

This exciting discovery invites continued scientific study, as well as the incorporation of citizen science at a young age. Ranger Robb Hannawacker, one of the researchers for this butterfly count, reflects on his past, “As a twelve year old, I was made fun of for chasing after butterflies instead of focusing on ball games. ‘Hey Butterfly Boy’, they'd say. Interestingly, my accuracy with a butterfly net, made batting at softballs a breeze!”

Enjoy the resources in Joshua Tree and in all your public lands. Observe and show respect to the species that live in these areas, and be open to new discoveries. Each day we are helping develop the next generation of stewards that will someday be the care takers of our parks.

For additional information on the mallow scrub-hairstreak, go to

For more information see,, or follow us on Twitter @JoshuaTreeNP, and on Facebook at Joshua Tree NP 

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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