Newly collected eggs give the Schaus butterfly a chance.


Researchers are working to save the Schaus swallowtail, a species of butterfly that was declared endangered in 1984. Photograph courtesy Jaret Daniels, FMNH/University of Florida

You can find the Schaus swallowtail butterfly on a U.S. postage stamp. But you'd have a harder time finding it in the wild.

The brown-and-yellow insect, which graced a stamp in 1996 to reflect its endangered status, has been hard to locate lately.

Sightings of the Schaus have fluctuated dramatically over the past 20 years, from the hundreds to the dozens. In recent years, habitat loss, drought, and pesticides have contributed to a precipitous drop in sightings, from 41 in 2011 to four in 2012.

Currently, the butterfly is believed to live only in a small patch of forest called tropical hardwood hammock, dense with evergreens and ferns, on Elliot Key in the Florida Keys. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Schaus as endangered in 1984.

Now the butterfly's odds of survival are improving, thanks to researchers from the University of Florida, the National Park Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the North American Butterfly Association.

This spring, the researchers collected seven larvae and more than a hundred eggs to store for breeding the Schaus next year. Collecting eggs is critical—the Schaus, unlike other butterflies, lays eggs only once a year, which makes it harder for the species to rebound.

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