There are other notable butterflies we have here in South Florida, and I would like to tell you about one of my favorites — the Buckeye butterfly.
A medium-size Florida butterfly, the Buckeye has several eye spots on both fore and hind wings of this very colorful butterfly. These are usually large round spots on the wings that make the butterfly seem much larger than it really is to scare away predators. The Buckeye has a tendency to stay low to the ground and perch in the sun for hours on end, watching for any females that may happened to fly by his territory in the meantime chasing other males out of his guarded territory. The host plants for the Buckeye butterfly in South Florida are basically plantains, which is an actual lawn weed, and snapdragons. These two are the ones the females lay their eggs on, and the caterpillars consume.
Next, I’d like to introduce you to the Red Admiral. This is a black butterfly with an orange to red band almost creating a full circle on the butterfly’s wings, and it has white blotches on the tips of its fore wings. They are easy to recognize in the garden because their beautiful colors stand out amongst the green plants. The caterpillars feed on false nettle which grows in wet areas like all the canals we have here in South Florida.
One of the most abundant and widely recognized butterflies in the world right behind the monarchs is the Painted Lady. It has a molted color under the wings which protects it from predators when resting because it is hard to distinguish it from the leaves. On the top side, it is an orange color with white dots on the fore wings and brown markings. Not a large butterfly, but it makes up for that in its numbers.
While I have your attention, I would like to tell you about some unusual butterfly facts that I came across years ago. These are fun and interesting:
- Many butterflies taste with their feet. The monarch will scratch the surface of the host plant with its feet to make sure it is the proper plant to feed its caterpillars before they lay their eggs on it.
- Butterflies only weigh as much as one rose petal, but can fly thousands of miles.
- The Arctic is the only continent on which there are no butterflies.
- Butterflies range in size from 1/8 in. to almost 12 in. wide. The Alexander’s bird wing from the island of New Guinea is the largest of all butterflies can be 11 to 12 inches wide.
- Butterflies cannot hear, but they do feel vibration.
- Most butterflies only live 5-7 days.
- Butterflies do not grow as they get older. They stay the exact same size as when they came out of the chrysalis.
Caterpillars are not worms; caterpillars have legs, and worms do not.
- The top speed for a butterfly is approximately 12 miles per hour. Some moths can fly 25 miles per hour.
- Butterflies are beneficial for many reasons but one notable one is that they do pollinate. They do not carry any disease either.
- Butterflies have no weapons. They defend themselves by who can fly faster and who is the biggest.
So until next week, wander about your garden, and see if you can spot any red admirals or painted ladies. Remember if you find somebody that doesn’t like butterflies, turn and run like the wind.
Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, www.naplesbutterfly.com. He also can be heard every Saturday at 4 PM on his call-in garden radio show, “Plant Talk with Mike Malloy,” on 98.9-WGUF.