The Butterfly Blues

ParcBob at ParcBob at
Wed May 29 12:22:01 EDT 2002

The Butterfly Blues 
    Few people have even seen one, but the Miami blue is causing quite a 
flap, as butterfly fanatics across the nation rally the troops to save it 
from extinction.By <A HREF="mailto:cdougher at">Colleen Dougher</A>

Jane Ruffin, a British-born butterfly photographer living in Bryn Mawr, Pa., 
was taking photos in the Florida Keys in the fall of 1999 when she came 
across something that took her by surprise: a colony of Miami blues, a South 
Florida subspecies believed to be extinct.The Miami blue, which has a 
wingspan of about an inch, was once common in South Florida and occasionally 
seen in the state’s northern counties. But the last verified sighting was 
made on Big Pine Key in 1992. While there had been a few unverified 
sightings, subsequent searches for the elusive butterfly turned up 
nothing.Ruffin was excited about her discovery, but several species of blues 
look similar, and she knew she would have to consult her butterfly books to 
be sure. When her suspicions were confirmed, Ruffin called North American 
Butterfly Association (NABA) president Jeffrey Glassberg, who had never 
before seen this butterfly. Within two days, a very excited Glassberg had 
cashed in some frequent-flier miles to make the trip from Morristown, N.J., 
to the Keys to see the rare finds and photograph them himself. Later, when 
Ruffin was considering whether to reveal the location of the butterflies 
publicly, she thought it might be good to check with an expert first. So, she 
called Renate Skinner, a biologist for the Monroe County region, who told 
Ruffin that she didn’t think it would be a good idea to divulge the location 
of the blues.

On the one hand are butterfly lovers who would like to set their sights on a 
Miami blue. But other people would love to get their nets around one of the 
rare butterflies.Ruffin knew that policing the blues’ home might be 
difficult, so she took Skinner’s advice and didn’t tell anyone about the 
sighting. When Glassberg wrote an article about the discovery, he didn’t 
reveal the location, either."Unfortunately," he wrote, "although we would 
love to share this information with all others who would like to visit and 
view the Miami blues, there’s nothing that would stop an unethical collector 
from devastating this tiny colony."Despite efforts to keep the location a 
secret, others eventually discovered the blues, and their location was 
revealed. This January, the Sun-Sentinel reported about the colony of blues 
at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key. NABA’s Web site includes recent 
photos of the Miami blue — along with the name of that park, where the 
butterflies were photographed.It’s not that no one is looking out for these 
butterflies. But two and a half years after Ruffin discovered them, efforts 
to obtain the ultimate protective measures are still under way. By 2000, 
Glassberg and St. Petersburg entomologist Mark Salvato were concerned that 
the butterfly’s last known populations would be wiped out by 
mosquito-spraying, changes to the butterfly’s habitat, unethical butterfly 
collectors or a single storm. So, that June, they filed a petition for an 
emergency listing on the endangered species list with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, the principal federal agency for conserving, protecting and 
enhancing wildlife and its habitats. Emergency status, which would have 
offered the species protection for more than 200 days while a ruling was 
adopted, was denied, but some officials at the Fish and Wildlife Service feel 
the petition presents substantial information to indicate that a listing may 
be warranted. But first, officials must determine exactly how rare the 
butterfly is. Dave Martin, of the Fish and Wildlife Service, says there have 
been sightings of the Miami blue on Bimini and perhaps another island but 
says, "Everyone would be surprised if enough were found that it turned out 
not to require a listing. But at the moment, the question is, ‘Do we have 
enough adequate information on which to base a listing decision?’ "When it 
comes to acquiring protection under the Endangered Species Act, designed to 
protect wildlife from harassment, capture or harm, the wheels of motion do 
not turn quickly. If the Miami blue eventually qualifies for protection under 
the act, anyone who removes one from the wild could be fined up to $100,000 
and jailed for up to a year — per butterfly. 

But the Fish and Wildlife Service won’t even determine if it will propose 
putting this butterfly on the list of threatened or endangered species until 
September.In January, to help make that determination, the agency solicited 
information — about the blue’s history, its habitat, its distribution, 
conservation measures to protect it and potential threats to the species — 
from anyone interested in the butterfly. So far, the service has received 
about half a dozen replies, including several from scientists. The responses 
are still being reviewed. If there’s enough information to show a listing is 
warranted, the agency is obligated to go ahead with it. But because listing 
funding is limited, there’s a waiting list.

Martin isn’t sure if the Miami blue will even make the list or if it does, 
how long it might have to wait for protection. "Who knows? Among other 
things, we are in the process of developing a new priority system of putting 
things on a waiting list. At the moment, no one knows what shape that will 
take. A proposal is due in a month or so."While we’re quite certain that this 
butterfly is less abundant and more restricted in range than it was 12 to 13 
years ago," Martin adds, "there’s a real reluctance — not only on our part — 
to go ahead with this listing until we have a good survey by somebody who 
knows the butterflies and knows how to look for them." Another possibility is 
that a court order could shut down work on protection of the butterfly, which 
temporarily happened last summer. While listing funding has increased over 
the years, so have the number of lawsuits. Many environmental groups have 
resorted to litigation to get species listed. Meanwhile, Fish and Wildlife 
Service officials argue that resources that could be used to get new species 
listed are instead being focused on lawsuits. Last August, the future of the 
Miami blue saw a breakthrough in the form of an agreement between the 
Department of Interior and conservation groups. The agreement called for 
quick steps to be taken in the cases of 29 species, including the Miami blue, 
awaiting proposals for listings, final listings decisions or other action. In 
return, and to make funds available, conservation groups agreed to extend 
deadlines for eight other species.

Some aren’t waiting for the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Miami 
blue.Bob Parcelles Jr., a Pinellas Park ecologist and endangered species 
activist, is lining up the troops to ensure the blue has a future. Three 
months after launching the Miami Blue Butterfly Restoration Project, 
sponsored by the International Lepidoptery Survey and the Institute of 
Ecological and Environmental Studies’ Clean Millennium Movement, he’s 
leading an army of butterfly experts and enthusiasts who plan, among other 
things, to educate the public about the Miami blue and its host plants; to 
breed the butterfly; to release folk and rap songs about it; and to recruit 
gardeners to cultivate the balloon vine, a host plant.Parcelles became 
interested in the blue when he learned a petition had been filed to list the 
butterfly as an endangered species. He posted the news on Lep’s List, a 
subscription Web site for amateur and professional entomologists. (Free 
newsgroup Naturepotpourri is listed on

Anne Kilmer, a retired garden columnist and frequent contributor to the site, 
responded to the posting with quite a bit of rhetoric, Parcelles says. "And I 
kind of said, ‘Hey Anne, put your money where your mouth is. Let’s you and I 
save this butterfly,’ " he recalls. "So, what I did was, I organized the 
Miami Blue Butterfly Restoration Project."With Parcelles as chairman and 
Kilmer as vice chair, the project also includes a number of 
environmentalists, ecologists, scientists and even chapters of NABA. The way 
Parcelles sees it, there’s room for everyone, including collectors, breeders 
and people who are generally considered outlaws in the butterfly world.

Oddly, Jeffrey Glassberg of NABA, which filed the petition to get the Miami 
blue listed, isn’t very familiar with this group."I don’t know what their 
plan is," he says, "but they don’t represent anyone other than themselves. I 
do know of a number of people associated with the group, mainly people who 
have been amateur butterfly collectors." Meanwhile, he says, his group and 
organizations such as the Tropical Audubon Society and the Florida Native 
Plant Society are moving ahead with their own plans to study and save the 
Miami blue.Parcelles, whose coalition has no office and recruits new members 
by phone and e-mail, seems equally determined. "Everybody’s just raring to go 
down there in South Florida," Parcelles says. "It’s everything I can do to 
keep the reins on them while we still work out some technical details and 
things like that. If we’re not careful, we could possibly cause damage to 
what population is there, and we don’t want anyone to do that."While the 
coalition is a grassroots effort, Parcelles says he runs a tight ship. "I 
think some people are saying, ‘Oh boy, this is like a military thing,’ " he 
says. "But all it takes is somebody to say, ‘Well, I’m gonna go down and get 
all the seedpods I can. Well, some of those seedpods could very well have the 
Miami blue larvae in [them], so it’s not time yet to bring out the Boy Scouts 
and the junior high kids, but their time will come." But his recovery plan 
does aim to get more people growing host plants, and to train a task force to 
examine the seedpods of vines on which the larvae grow. The larvae, the plan 
states, "will be distributed to appropriate organizations and people working 
on its restoration." Part of his group’s mission, Parcelles says, is 
education. Since the Miami blue resembles other species of blue found in 
South Florida, the coalition created a flier that it plans to distribute 
throughout the area. Using photographs of the Cassius blue, Ceraunus blue, 
Nickerbean blue and Miami blue, the pamphlet demonstrates how to 
differentiate the Miami blue from other blues and includes a questionnaire 
that asks people to report potential Miami blue sightings. The coalition also 
plans to teach people about one of the butterfly’s host plants, the balloon 
vine, a weedy plant unpopular with gardeners. The more land is developed, the 
more the Miami blue’s habitat is depleted, and with it, the number of 
butterflies. It’s more than habitat loss, however, that’s keeping these 
butterflies down. One of the other big concerns is mosquito-spraying in the 
Keys.Tom Emmel, a professor of zoology and entomology at the University of 
Florida, fought a similar battle when working with the Schaus swallowtail. 
The butterfly’s numbers had severely dwindled in the Keys as a result of 
habitat loss and the spraying of pesticides Baytex and Dibrom to control 
mosquitoes. Emmel’s findings led to the banning of Baytex throughout Florida 
and more stringent regulation of Dibrom in the Keys.But butterfly experts say 
that because of the way the Miami blue pupates, it is more vulnerable to 
mosquito-spraying than other butterflies are. "The balloon vine spreads 
pretty fast in disturbed areas, and it grows along the edges of roadsides and 
on vegetation," Emmel says. "So, theoretically, the butterflies should be 
becoming more abundant, and yet they’re rapidly disappearing."The only way to 
confirm that mosquito-spraying is a factor is to conduct tests. Of course, 
conducting tests on what may be the last known population of these 
butterflies presents obvious problems. But possible solutions exist.Emmel, an 
author of 390 scientific publications and 35 books, says that in working with 
the Schaus swallowtail, he discovered that the butterfly lived an average of 
3.9 days in the wild and laid a maximum of 95 eggs. But in captivity, the 
swallowtail could lay as many as 460 eggs and live as long as 32 days.He 
thinks establishing a captive breeding colony of Miami blues that could be 
reintroduced into the wild would be a worthwhile venture. Experiments could 
be conducted on the excess butterflies to determine the effects of 
pesticides.If mosquito-spraying was found to be a culprit, Emmel says, "you 
could easily promulgate some regulation for these particular sites where the 
Miami blue occurs, by changing the time of spraying. Maybe you don’t spray 
from April till June — simple, cost-effective measures that don’t impact us 
economically or healthwise but help the species."But other factors might be 
contributing to the Miami blue’s diminution. "For example, the imported fire 
ants that are spreading through the Keys:" Emmel says, "It could be as simple 
as that — that imported fire ants have reached the areas where the Miami blue 
occurs, and those ants have absolutely no symbiotic relationship with these 
caterpillars, unlike other ants, and they go after them as food and eat 
them."Parcelles says his coalition has expert breeders lined up to conduct 
studies on the feasibility of breeding from a limited stock. But problems 
could occur by bringing in blues from the Caribbean to be used for breeding 
stock, because they would belong to a different subspecies.Glassberg says he 
has seen the Miami blue in the Bahamas, and it looks nothing like the blue 
found in the Keys. But before launching into any elaborate 
transplantation-and-breeding program, more research is necessary. He wants to 
understand the biology of this butterfly, he says, "before trying to do 
something that does more harm than good. If you start taking the butterflies 
out of the colony, there are risks."Some feel the Miami blues are but one 
storm away from being wiped off the face of the earth. Parcelles says that 
after formalizing his coalition’s liaison with the state, he and researcher 
John Calhoun, one of the authors of a research paper titled "The Rise and 
Fall of Tropical Blues in Florida," plan to investigate the likelihood of the 
Miami blue being wiped out by a single disastrous event and take a look at 
what can be done to prevent that from happening.Glassberg and the 
organizations with which he’s working are also concerned about this. 
Recently, they applied for grants to train docents to help with the research 
and watch over the butterflies. These people would assure, among other 
things, that a park maintenance worker doesn’t inadvertently clean up an area 
and destroy the butterfly’s habitat.Butterfly collectors are another concern. 
"I’m not saying that most of the people who collect butterflies will do so 
illegally," Glassberg says. "But it’s not an isolated event that someone who 
does this type of activity will do it illegally. And, of course, the rarer 
something is, the more people want it. It’s just the nature of the collection 
mentality, whether it’s Chinese Ming vases or rare butterflies."In 1995, the 
first butterfly-poaching case was brought to trial in the United States. 
Three California men, Richard Skalski, Thomas Kral and Marc Grinnell, were 
indicted for poaching more than 2,200 butterflies, many of them protected 
under the Endangered Species Act, from seven national parks. Federal agents 
seized hundreds of letters from the men’s homes, including one Kral wrote to 
Skalski in 1984. "I myself got caught collecting in Florida Everglades N.P.," 
he wrote, "but got away each time, simply claiming ignorance of the 
laws."These men, according to the indictment, even signed their letters, 
"Yours in poaching." And, according to U.S. Attorney Michael J. Yamraguchi, 
the evidence showed the men targeted rare wildlife found on federal lands or 
protected by law, including butterflies for which irresponsible collectors 
were willing to pay dearly. The defendants, Yamraguchi noted, took not only 
the butterflies but the eggs as well, so that they could rear perfect 
specimens in captivity for their collections.Skalski was sentenced to five 
months’ part-time imprisonment and five months in a halfway house, Grinnell 
received 100 hours of community service, and Kral received a reduced sentence 
of 300 hours of community service. Additionally, each man was fined $3,000 
and given three years’ probation.Another butterfly poacher was arrested in 
1997. When law enforcement officials approached Adriano Teobaldelli at 
Sequoia National Park, he was trying to hide a butterfly net behind his back. 
When apprehended, he had 51 dead butterflies in his possession. A search of 
his hotel room uncovered 200 more.As reported by Outside magazine, the 
Italian man had come to the U.S. solely to capture rare butterfly species. 
Even though the Fish and Wildlife Service had estimated at that time that a 
single pair of rare butterflies could be sold for as much as $500 — and 
Teobaldelli pleaded guilty to taking hundreds of butterflies from national 
parks — he was fined only $500.At the time, David Klinger of the Fish and 
Wildlife Service said this was "symptomatic of a recurring problem of 
poachers from all over the world coming into our national parks and turning 
them into the last supermarkets for traffickers of illegal 
wildlife."Parcelles says, "The way to satisfy this need to have collections 
for the fun of it is probably breeding, just like orchids. I don’t believe in 
people going out into the wild anymore and collecting orchids for themselves. 
We breed them for that, and there’s enough plant stock of orchids, just like 
there is of butterflies."Glassberg, however, feels poachers should be 
prosecuted more vigilantly. "The crime is that these people got off 
scot-free, that the judge thought these butterflies were a joke. That was the 
crime. These people should have been thrown in jail for years," he 
argues.There was a time when those who collected and traded butterflies were 
thought to be harmless, but with more butterflies becoming threatened by 
fragmented habitats and pesticides — and more people willing to pay for rare 
butterflies — things have changed. Collecting could well become a 
contributing factor to an already-threatened butterfly’s demise."There’s 
already enough people involved in this, and the emotions are so high," says 
Parcelles. "Someone said to me, ‘Why don’t you have guards?’ I said, ‘Well, 
personally, I’m not telling exactly where they are.’ "He doesn’t have to. By 
this point, anyone who is interested in butterflies knows where to find them, 
guard or no guard.Despite concerns over collectors, the Fish and Wildlife 
Service doesn’t believe granting the Miami blue emergency status is 
necessary. "The view of experienced people does vary," Martin says, "but I don
’t think that in the comments we received, anyone was particularly adamant 
that listing is needed immediately for that particular protection."The reason 
for that, Glassberg says, "is because any serious people he would talk to 
would be collectors, because all of the experienced people are collectors, 
and that’s what each would say. But when you haven’t seen [the Miami blue] 
for 10 years, it’s hard to understand how anyone would draw that conclusion. 
If there’s an emergency, this is it. For them to say otherwise, I strongly 
believe, is an error. And it’s my belief that if this colony goes, this 
butterfly will be gone from the face of the Earth. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe 
there is another population somewhere. I certainly hope so."It’s clear, he 
says, that the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t act in a timely fashion. "By 
law," he says, "they would have had to have acted sooner." Glassberg says the 
4,500-member NABA isn’t interested in litigation. "We have one concern: the 
well-being of the Miami blue. …"We’re interested in this butterfly, the last 
colony of these incredibly beautiful little butterflies. We feel it would be 
irresponsible of us to just let it go ahead and die and not [to] move forward 
and do everything we can to preserve it."According to Tom Emmel, more Florida 
butterflies may need rescuing in the future. "With habitat destruction and 
mosquito-control spraying and all the other problems in the state," he says, 
"we estimate that over 60 species of Florida’s 160 breeding species are now 
represented by only one to six populations."But after 17 years of ongoing 
efforts in trying to restore the still-endangered Schaus swallowtail, Emmel 
attests that preserving a butterfly is quite the challenge, even for those 
species that make their way onto the endangered species list."The problem 
with these endangered species programs is consistency of support," Emmel 
says. "It’s a year-to-year budget, and all of a sudden the money may be gone. 
But biology doesn’t work that way. You have to reproduce every year if it’s 
going to survive."Likewise, people working on the project need to be paid. 
"Why we have to go down to an extreme-crisis point and then get the funding, 
and then have the funding jerked in and out, is beyond me," Emmel says. "I 
guess the ultimate reason is that we just have to build public and 
legislative understanding of why it’s important."The [Schaus swallowtail] — 
in and of itself — is relatively insignificant. Sure, it’s a colorful 
species; it’s representative of a tropical fauna that doesn’t get into the 
United States anywhere except in the Florida Keys. It brings thousands of 
visitors to Florida to see it, it has an economic impact, but in and of 
itself, the world won’t come to an end if it disappears. But if we didn’t 
study it, we would have no idea that this mosquito-control district was 
spraying such massive amounts of two extremely injurious pesticides in the 
environment."Sometimes, the butterfly studies produce meaningful revelations 
that extend far beyond the world of insects. Emmel says that while studying 
the effects of mosquito-spraying, he also discovered that in the Keys in the 
1980s — when spraying was done on a massive scale — the cases of multiple 
sclerosis and similar neuromuscular disorders per thousand was 47 times the 
national average. After obtaining the initial data from the Department of 
Health and Rehabilitative Services, the "state shut down access to that data 
faster than you can blink an eye," Emmel says.At the same time, Baytex and 
Dibrom were being used to control mosquitoes and general agricultural pests 
in Arizona, California and Texas. "The Mexican migrant workers in the field 
who were getting doused with this stuff got severe neuromuscular disorders 
very similar to the symptoms that mark multiple sclerosis," Emmel says. "And 
the epidemiologists began looking at this data and made the correlation of 
the spraying and published the results."Afterward, a Tallahassee newspaper 
wrote an editorial on the subject. And it happened to coincide with a 
conference at the University of Florida of those responsible for mosquito 
control in districts throughout the state."And that was one reason probably 
that the districts were so fast to respond to our appeal: the overwhelming 
scientific evidence that there was a problem, to shut it down before public 
health could become an issue," Emmel says.Because access to the data was 
denied, no further study was launched. "It would really require funding to 
pay a legal team or have the resources of a major newspaper reporter or 
something to go after that story and get that data, and it may be a moot 
point now, hopefully, with less use of those pesticides," Emmel concedes.He 
notes that the only mosquito in the Keys that poses a major problem for 
humans is the salt marsh mosquito, which breeds in shallow salt marshes along 
the coast. Spray in the salt marshes is supposed to be forbidden, because 
those areas are also the breeding grounds for shrimp and shallow-water 
fish.With the help of the University of Florida’s Extension Service, the 
Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, Emmel is advocating alternative means of 
mosquito control, including using sprays that attack the larvae with juvenile 
growth hormones.Meanwhile, Parcelles is still pulling back the reins on his 
group of eager butterfly enthusiasts. "There’s so much support going on, you 
know what I mean?" Parcelles says. "We’re gonna have T-shirts. We have two 
songs — a rap song as well as a folk song — that are gonna be published. It’
s gonna be a big PR campaign. … Now, the rap song, I have kind of put it to 
rest. I’m waiting till we get really famous or infamous — whichever the case 
— and will probably get one of these main rap stars, and I can only think of 
a couple, and that’s ’cause they act. It’s not quite my style of music."As 
for getting someone to do the folk song, Parcelles says he’ll probably start 
with Jimmy Buffett and work his way down. "We are still at the point where we’
re laying down our plans," he says. "At first, it was like people lined up to 
charge, and I think some of them kind of got mad at me for being so 
conservative, but I have a lot of scientists I respect and need to work with 
that want that type of conservatism. So, it’s grassroots, but we can’t have 
a mob."With more butterfly populations dwindling, these insects are going to 
need all the help they can get. 
This ismthe article that started the controversy betweemn glassberg and his 
hand ful of helpers. I considered it bad press after reveiwing it with the 
other 3 peices printed. so thiis is the first time many of you have seen 
this. i am tired of people saying i am coarse and an slamming this 
mother-daughtwer team. Thye slam much worse our workers and their so called 
friends. The onlyu diference between our efforts and Glassberg's are science, 
sincerity and a tenacity that he will find hard to endure. Oh, we are ''ill 
funded and improperly manged. There are only two answers for that managment 
and money. I believe both of those problems to be solvable. We do have 
loyality. I look forward to hear the Hansens song and I invite them on our 
radio outlets to sing it or play it what ever their skills rest on. I bet 
ours makes the top ten and theirs does not. 

but the music and Tees shirts buttons and bags and rap ands all of that is in 
Ann'es dept. She can work that fine. Just move on amnne and ignore these 
people's backfighting they will take one step too far and the courts will 
take over. enough is enouh is enough. Some of the ideas coming across my desk 
this morning makes me think very strongly of the mismangment them. No more. 
Ignore these people and lets make lepifoptery contiue to be a science. 
Biologists are laughuing at us and its time for the freakos to leave working 
and serious amateurs alone. Leroy send me a dozen traps on consignment since 
i work with for nothing. i have taken an interest in moths and wish to 
collect mthem at night. it keeps me out of trouble.

By the way my group has an office I am in it right now. We also have one in 
South Carolina and my consulting firm has offices in wahingto DC. Harmon West 
Virginia, Westchester County, New York and 3 aboard corporate jets. So lets 
get our facts straight. we deal with groups numbering in the 10's of 
thousands and an NABA is 4500 "stong". Lots of time to write funny songs but 
where is the action?


Bob Parcelles, Jr.
RJP Associates
Reply to: ParcBob at
PHone: (727)548-9775

PS: I My and jeff's pictures are missing but you can see on line I am 
prettier with my new mustache. Actually see it every Monday morning at 11-12 
PS: 2 Obviously we have to keep our findings secret at this time but we need 
input on niche and ants especially with "closely related " species. 
PS: 3 do not let this doom and gloom get you down. we are having fun inspite 
of being tolde were are killers, rapists, coarse and other things I can not 
print. Sounds like some of these people are not getting enough!

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