Glassberg tells reporters collectors "could wipe out" the Miami Blue

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at
Thu Jan 10 18:03:43 EST 2002

Roger sent this to me off line, but it is such a good statment/question I
want to pass it on.  Ron

----- Original Message -----
From: "Roger Kuhlman" <rkuhlman at>
To: <gatrelle at>
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 4:19 PM
Subject: Re: Glassberg tells reporters collectors "could wipe out" the
Miami Blue

Yes but what happens if the Miami Blue or Schaus Swallowtail is located in
one or a few locations and a hurricane devestates an area. If each site of
the butterfly is wiped out, the species go extinct since there are no
colonists from surrounding areas to re-populate the now more suitable

Roger Kuhlman

Ron:  This very scenario came to my mind while writing my post but I did
not go there.  Now that we have such an altered environment in south
Florida a hurricane would logically seem to pose more of a problem in a
situation as Roger states.  I say _may_, as there are ifs that can work
either way.  For example, I have never seen this, but knowing how hardy
roaches are I would bet that after a tornado destroys one of those trailer
parks that we have all seen on the news,  that if a person went into the
rubble the next day one would find mostly dead people but plenty of
roaches.  The point being that bugs are not affected like people or larger
mamals in things like this.

The eye of Hurricane Hugo passed over my home  - with my family in it.  It
was the only time in my life I actually thought I was going to die.  Hugo
was as bad or worse as Andrew.  It is amazing the day after when the sun
was warm and the sky clear to see amid all the fallen trees, blown apart
houses, etc. a few Phoebis sennae looking for nectar.  Did lots of adult
butterflies die - I would think so. Were there sill pupae attached to
stems?  Yes.  Were there still larvae nestled in the grass and leaf
shelters?  Yes, and probably most of them survived.

Would Miami Blue adults be killed?  I would sure think so - perhaps lots.
Would eggs and larva survive on and in the Balloon Vine pods?  Not only
yes, but I would think most.   And as the Balloon Vine seeds fell out and
new Vines sprouted (in what would now be Vine paradise)  the immature Blues
would now be adults and a population explosion of them would accompany the
rapid spread of the host.  Now I think this is very possible even if only
one colony of Miami Blue is known and it is the only one hit.  Again, these
are just what ifs.  But the reality _may_ actually be that the best thing
that could happen (from the Miami Blue standpoint) would be for a
devastating hurricane to hit the area which would allow the Vine and Blue
to gain the upper hand.  The bottom line here is that a hurricane (even
with one or two restricted colonies) probably has more odds of being a help
than a hindrance in the current situation.

Concerning the Schaus, there are those who feel it would have done just
fine without the U. of F. Emmel breeding and restocking effort.  I am not
here taking a position either way.  I know there can be lots of argument on
this -- and I hope this does not generate it.   So the following is just a

The short version of this is that the Schaus has always had a very small
range in the Miami area and upper Keys (never was on mid or lower keys).
The larval host is Torchwood which is a secondary weedy shrub/tree that
eventually gets chocked out by mature hammock growth.  In the end stages of
the plant/buttery cycles both the plant and host become uncommon to rare.
Then fire or hurricane destroys or greatly alters the mature hammock which
allows the Torchwood and Schaus to become common in this cycle.  Thus, the
summer/fall hurricane season which is after the early flight time of Shaus
adults has very little effect on the species as the population is not on
the wing but in papal stage secured to terms.  As I said, the short
version -- and just for information sake.

Back to Roger's statement/question.   I think the "...If each site of the
butterfly is wiped out, the species go extinct since there are no colonists
from surrounding areas to re-populate"  is not yet known for sure.  The
part about no colonists  to come in from other areas is surely absolute
where there is only one colony (as is apparently now the case with the
Miami Blue).   But how would a hurricane actually affect that population --
I think it could go either way with the positive being more likely.   But
one thing is for sure, I don't want to find out - better safe than sorry.

Ron Gatrelle


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