Miami Blue Butterfly

Miami blue article

(Cyclargus (=hemiargus) thomasi bethunebakeri)

The Miami blue butterfly is one of the rarest insects in North America, with only one known population remaining, and that is in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The Miami blue butterfly is a coastal butterfly that inhabits sunny areas at the edges of tropical hardwood forests in southern Florida. Its primary host plant is the gray nickerbean, but isolation on islands without nickerbean has prompted a switch to a secondary host plant, the blackbead tree. Although the Miami blue butterfly could once be found as far north along the Florida coasts to about St. Petersburg and Daytona, its range had been shrinking for many years. The Miami Blue butterfly was once common in the coastal areas of South Florida, but much of the butterfly’s habitat range is now heavily developed. After Hurricane Andrew swept through the southern Florida in 1992, the Miami blue butterfly was presumed to be extinct. It was rediscovered in 1999 at Bahia Honda State Park, but this population disappeared after 2010, presumed to be wiped out by adverse weather conditions and possible herbivery on its gray nickerbean hostplant by non-native green iguana.  Miami blue butterflies were discovered in Key West National Wildlife Refuge in 2006, and these populations are the focus of ongoing surveys and conservation action.