News Brief

Grounds Maintenance Implicated in Butterfly Extinctions

Habitat loss and pesticides overwhelm two hardy butterfly subspecies.

Now extinct, the Zestos Skipper was never considered for the Endangered Species List because populations in Florida were not discovered to be a separate subspecies until too late.

Photo: Marc AuMarc. License: CC BY 2.0

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that two subspecies of butterfly native to South Florida, the rockland grass skipper and the Zestos skipper, are likely extinct.

Though loved for their delicate appearance, butterflies have a reputation with scientists as being relatively resilient to environmental changes wrought by humans. When their habitats are lost to development or invasive species, populations sometimes disappear in one place, only to show up in another.

That’s why scientists waited more than a decade to declare these extinctions and why some Floridians are viewing this as a serious indicator of an unhealthy environment. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has formed the Imperiled Butterflies of Florida Workgroup (IBWG) in order to more closely study other threatened or endangered members of this important pollinator species, and the news has drawn many to scrutinize pesticides used by building owners and municipalities—a possible cause of the insects’ decline.

The building sector can play an important role in conservation efforts by including native plants in landscaping designs and minimizing pesticide use with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or other measures. “It would be really easy for people to make a significant difference in the environment just by the way they planted their suburban yards,” said Jeffrey Glassberg, president of the North American Butterfly Association, as quoted in The Washington Post.


Published July 28, 2013

Pearson, C. (2013, July 28). Grounds Maintenance Implicated in Butterfly Extinctions. Retrieved from

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