Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa are asking for your help as they try to learn where the native Kamehameha Butterfly exists.
The public's help could be key to the butterfly's survival. All it takes is a pair of hiking boots and a smartphone to help.
The beautiful orange and black Kamehameha Butterfly is the state insect, and one of only two native Hawaiian butterflies.
"We know it's in decline. It used to be in places like Hilo Bay, Waimanalo, even Tantalus. But it's not there anymore and we're talking about the decline that happened in the last 10 to 15 years, and it's disconcerting," said Dan Rubinoff, a UH professor.
With funding from the state land department the Pulelehua Project was born.
Researchers are asking hikers to become their eyes, and look for the Kamehameha Butterfly and report it. The key areas are valleys and higher elevation forests. The butterfly's main host plant is the Mamaki. It has some distinctive features that can be easily seen.
"The little caterpillar actually builds a tent in the leaf," said Will Haines, a UH researcher.
As it gets older, you can see the caterpillar turns bright green with spines and horns -- the butterfly itself in all its glory.
The key is to take a picture with your smart phone and just upload it to our website, and we'll be able to tell you if this is the Kamehameha Butterfly," said Haines.
Researchers say helping to save the Kamehameha Butterfly may be saving us.
"When something like this declines and disappears, it means they're changing. It may not be in a way that we notice yet, but it's probably not a positive change," said Rubinoff. "And if we’re trying to conserve the forest and water that we all depend on, maybe the Kamehameha Butterfly is the first indication that we'll have trouble doing that."
Click here to learn more about the Pulelehua Project and see more pictures of the Kamehameha Butterfly.