Manatee Center Lunch & Learn Focuses on Florida Atala Butterflies 7/12

Back from the Brink of Extinction

June 20, 2019

Manatee Center Lunch and Learn Focuses on
Florida Atala Butterflies Back from the Brink of Extinction, July 12th

The UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County, in conjunction with the Manatee Observation and Education Center, is hosting a lunch and learn presentation titled “Florida Atala Butterflies Back from the Brink of Extinction” on Friday, July 12, 2019 from noon – 1 p.m.  During this event, UF/IFAS St. Lucie County Extension Agent Ken Gioeli will discuss the unique history of the Florida Atala butterfly and its caterpillar host plant.  The butterfly has come back from the brink of extinction in St. Lucie County and the Treasure Coast.

The Atala butterfly, Eumaeus atala Poey, is a beautiful native butterfly. Its black satiny wings are speckled with an iridescent turquoise shimmer. The Florida atala butterfly was thought to be extinct from 1937 until 1959 due to overharvest of its host plant, Zamia integrifolia, commonly known as coontie. In recent years, ephemeral colonies of Florida atala butterflies have been discovered on North and South Hutchinson Island. During the warm Florida summer months, hundreds of these butterflies and caterpillars can be seen in large numbers in very specific locations on these barrier islands. Come to this presentation to learn more about this unique butterfly and its history.

Gioeli serves on the faculty of the University of Florida/IFAS as the Natural Resources Extension Agent for St. Lucie County. He provides natural resource-related educational programs for Extension volunteers such as Master Gardeners and Florida Master Naturalists as well as general homeowners, community organizations, school and governmental agencies. Gioeli earned his University of Florida M.Ag. in agricultural education and communications and a graduate certificate in environmental education. He has been working with the Florida atala butterflies since 1995 and enjoys telling the story about this butterfly’s successful comeback from the brink of extinction.

The Manatee Observation and Education Center is located at 480 North Indian River Drive in Fort Pierce. Event is free and open to the public and registration is not required.