- Associated Press - Saturday, September 26, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - It has taken only two years for a new butterfly to spread to every Hawaiian island, making its home everywhere from sea level to 6,800 feet up the slopes of Haleakala on Maui, according to University of Hawaii researchers.

The butterfly known as Sleepy Orange or Abaeis nicippe has established itself in Hawaii with “remarkable” speed, UH professor Daniel Rubinoff said in a news release Thursday.

The species was first seen on Oahu’s north shore in December 2013, Rubinoff and researcher William Haines told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://bit.ly/1R90YDm ). In mainland North and South America, the butterfly has distinct winter and summer forms, but only the summer form has been seen in Hawaii.

Though it is called “sleepy,” the butterfly flies rapidly and erratically, pausing to feed on nectar from flowers or draw water from mud puddles.

The scientists said they think the Sleepy Orange butterfly hitchhiked to Hawaii on plant shipments. Its larvae feed on tropical flowering plants, but Rubinoff and Haines don’t think the population will grow large enough to threaten ornamental plants. They say the species has not been recorded feeding on any native Hawaiian plants.



“While Hawaii 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,” said Rubinoff.

The last time the a new butterfly was identified in 2008, when the Lesser Grass Blue species was discovered, according to the scientists.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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