1996 32¢ Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly
Issue Date: October 2, 1996
City: San Diego, CA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
The future of the Schaus swallowtail butterfly is as delicate and vulnerable as the butterfly itself. The urbanization of southern Florida destroyed much of the butterfly’s original habitat during the early part of the century, and extensive use of pesticides further threatened the population. By the 1970s, the Schaus swallowtail survived only in Key Biscayne National Park and on the island of Key Largo.
Well-managed habitats in the park and reclaimed land within the butterfly’s territory seemed to ensure the species’ survival. But in 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit, passing right through the swallowtail’s only habitat. All of the butterflies, which were in their pupal stage, were submerged beneath salt water, and many of the torchwood and lime trees on which the creatures depend were also destroyed. Fortunately, researchers had begun a captive-breeding program only two months earlier. In fact, the butterfly on this cover was part of that program and had just emerged from its pupa when the picture was taken.
Following the disaster, 100 butterflies were found in Key Biscayne – an impressive number considering researchers feared there would be none, but not enough to secure the swallowtail’s future, which now rests upon the success of the captive population.