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Who Said That?

"We are sort of the capital of declining species."

-- Elane Nuehring, past president of the Miami blue chapter of the North American Butterfly Association

By their nature, South Florida’s tropical butterflies have always been ephemeral creatures, coming and going with the rhythms of the life cycle and season. Now they’re just gone.

In what may be an unprecedented die-off, at least five varieties of rare butterflies have vanished from the pine forests and seaside jungles of the Florida Keys and southern Miami-Dade County, the only places some were known to exist.

Marc Minno, a Gainesville entomologist commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to perform a major survey of South Florida’s butterfly population, filed reports late last year recommending that the Zestos skipper and rockland Meske’s skipper — both unseen for a decade or more — be declared extinct. He believes the same fate has befallen a third, a Keys subspecies called the Zarucco duskywing, and that two more, the nickerbean blue and Bahamian swallowtail, also have disappeared from their only North American niche.

Considering that there have been only four previous presumed extinctions of North American butterflies — the last in California more than 50 years ago — Minno finds the government response to such an alarming wave frustrating.

Read more at the Miami Herald.