Jaeson Clayborn

Doctoral Researcher in Biology at Florida International University

What is going on in South Florida?

Ants, especially exotic ants, are potential agents in the decline of rare butterflies. Butterfly enthusiasts in South Florida have observed exotic ants consuming eggs and caterpillars of rare butterfly species in gardens, parks, and preserves. Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) have been considered a threat to rare butterflies because of their highly predatory nature. Another exotic ant, the graceful twig ant (Pseudomyrmex graclis) is arboreal, posing potential risk to rare butterfly eggs and caterpillars as the ants actively search for prey on shrubs and trees. Current government management protocols for the federally endangered Schaus’ swallowtail and Miami blue butterflies report exotic ants as major threats to the eggs and larvae of both species. In addition, many species of blue butterflies (Lycaenidae Family) have mutualistic relationships with ants, which may be disrupted by exotic ants. Currently, there is no experimental evidence that confirm exotic ants are directly responsible for the reduction and extinction of butterflies in South Florida. A novel technique such as the use high definition video surveillance cameras to quantify encounter rates can be employed to investigate the impacts of predator-prey interactions between rare butterflies and invertebrate predators.


Invertebrate predators are a menacing threat against Lepidopterans. Ants and paper wasps will attack and consume caterpillars. At the 2:56 clip, the graceful twig ant attempts to catch the federally endangered Bartram's scrub-hairstreak (Strymon acis bartrami) on Bidens alba.

Video footage of rare butterflies excluding the great southern white (common) in the Florida Keys. Plant native host plants such as Passiflora suberosa, Asclepias tuberosa, Senna mexicana, Zanthoxylum fagara, and Amyris elemifera to attract charismatic insects in your yard.

The federally endangered Schaus' swallowtail butterfly inhabits subtropical dry forests in the Florida Keys. Here, we have recorded the first video footage of Schaus' swallowtail courtship in the wild.



"In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." - Baba Dioum