UH research identifies new butterfly species to Hawaii

UH research identifies new butterfly species to Hawaii
Photo: Francis Joy
Photo: Francis Joy

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By; Jamie Lee

A new species of butterfly has been identified to the islands.

University of Hawaii at Manoa Professor Dr. Daniel Rubinoff and researcher Dr. William Haines of the Department of Plant and Environmental
Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, classified a new butterfly to Hawaii, the Sleepy Orange butterfly, also known as Abaeis nicippe.

The Sleepy Orange is widespread in the southern United States and can be found in Brazil and Canada. The butterfly was first seen in December
2013 in Waialua and was later spotted on other parts of the island. Within a year the Sleepy Orange became common on Maui and found on Kauai, Molokai, Hawaii Island and Kahoolawe.

"The speed with which the Sleepy Orange is establishing itself in Hawai'i is remarkable," said Dr. Rubinoff. "Especially considering how many instances of single-island endemism — insect species isolated on a single island — exist in this archipelago," he continued.

The larvae of the Sleepy Orange feed on plants belonging to the Senna species, which include the shower tree found in the state. However, Dr. Rubinoff and Haines do not believe the butterfly poses a threat to the tree or other ornamental landscape plants in the Islands.

"The butterfly is unlikely to build up numbers sufficient to threaten ornamental plants, and it has not been recorded feeding on any native Hawaiian plants at this time," Dr. Rubinoff explained. "While Hawai'i has again dodged a bullet with this probably harmless introduction, it does go to show that we need to contribute more resources towards quarantine and reduce our reliance on imports, since the butterfly was almost certainly brought in accidentally on imports from the mainland."

The last new butterfly identified in Hawai'i was the Lesser Grass Blue butterfly, or Zizina otis, in 2008.

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