Congratulations to Fort Pierce Inlet State Park in St. Lucie County and Audubon of Martin County for proclaiming commitment to conserve rare atala butterflies on their properties. A new program initiated by the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County in conjunction with collaborating agencies is designed to promote the conservation of rare atala butterflies in Florida. Learn more about the plight of the Florida atala butterfly HERE.
The Florida atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala Poey) is a rare hairstreak butterfly characterized by satiny black wings featuring an iridescent turquois shimmer. It was thought to be extinct due to overharvest of its host plant, Zamia integrifolia (a.k.a. coontie). These butterflies were rediscovered and are found in highly localized populations in coastal central and south Florida. An Extension program designed to encourage adoption of atala-friendly landscape practices was created and adopted by organizations in St. Lucie County and other Florida counties where atalas are present.
A proclamation statement was developed in support of the conservation of the Florida atala butterfly on publicly accessible lands identified during the atala survey conducted in 2019-20. These statements were developed by Ken Gioeli, UF/IFAS Natural Resources Extension Agent for St. Lucie County and UF graphic artist Michele Wood. Features in the statement include information about the rarity and precarious nature of atalas including that it was once thought to be extinct and its dependency on coontie as its singular native food source. Proclamations have been signed by partner agencies and work is being conducted to have additional organizations commitment to the conservation of atala butterflies. These agencies are the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park in St. Lucie County and Audubon of Martin County in Martin County, FL. Participation in this program is available to other organizations. Contact Ken Gioeli for information.