Rudy Benavides rbenavid at
Fri Jan 11 08:31:04 EST 2002

forwaring Ron's reply.....rudy

>From: "Ron Gatrelle" <gatrelle at>
>Reply-To: "Ron Gatrelle" <gatrelle at>
>To: "TILS group" <TILS-leps-talk at>, <rbenavid at>
>CC: "Chris J. Durden" <drdn at>
>Subject: atala
>Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 22:07:18 -0500
>Original message from "Chris J. Durden" <drdn at>
>To: rbenavid at
> >
> >Does anyone know what happened to Jack Dempwolf. It was his father who, 
> >1959, rediscovered  the first *atala* in 1959 on "Coontie" outside his
> >motel room. Do we know for sure that this was not a 1958 recolonization
> >from Cuba?
> >...............Chris Durden
>The "modern" atala discovery was made by a tourist who took a picture of
>one on Key Biscane in the late 1970's (as I recall) and returning home
>showed the picture to a lepidopterist relative.  The relative was shocked
>to see an atala.  (My memory is rusty on all this - but I remember that
>lepster being from up north. )  This individual immediately contacted the
>key lepidopterists in Florida at that time which were a fella in Miami
>whose name I forget, Steve Roman, and Dave Baggett.  Steve knew H.L King
>and G. Rawson and other of the old timers. Rawson (1961) was one of the
>ones that publish that atala was extinct (the Broward colony was "his").
>Baggett (1982) published about its rediscovery in Miami and need of
>protection from development.
>There has always been a question as to whether these recent specimens are
>from a hold over colony or imported via the Bahamas.  I have heard the Fl
>bug is not a good subspecies and that what occurs in the Bahamas is the
>same thing - I don't know as I have never looked into it.  I do know that
>the spot this was rediscovered in was an abandoned area of the Key with
>very old coconut palms and other older vegetation - overgrown with weeds.
>Various butterfly collectors transported larvae out of that area to coontie
>plants wherever they found them -- people's yards, parks, etc.
>Having been one of the first persons to hear about this back then I headed
>right down to see for myself, I will say this.  Having seen the site of
>this rediscovery at that time it was obvious that the area had not seen any
>human attention for a long time.  This is also a rather sedentary
>butterfly.  It is the slowest flier I have ever seen.  It is like slow
>motion.  The first one I "caught" was by slowly reaching my hand out as it
>flew and taking it in my palm and fingers - so slowly that it was not
>damaged.   Hard to explain.  So I can see a small colony existing for a
>long time in a small area.  Of course then we have the question of
>inbreeding etc.  So, IF the subspecies florida is bogus and the Bahama
>critter is the same thing we will never know for sure where the current
>Florida resident came from.   I do have a couple of specimens taken around
>1910 and they do look "different" - a lot greener.  But I have just chalked
>that up to fading and age.
>Someone else have a story on this?
>Ron Gatrelle

Rudy Benavides
Randallstown, Baltimore County
rbenavid at

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