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 Florida Butterflies and Moths

Butterflies & Moths
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On this Page - Bella Moth, Pink-striped Oakworm Moth, Long-tailed Skipper Butterfly, Mangrove Skipper Butterfly, Common Checkered-Skipper Butterfly, Polka-Dot Wasp Moth, Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly

Click any image for a larger version

Bella Moth - Utetheisa ornatrix

Bella moth - Utetheisa ornatrix, dorsal view Bella moth - Utetheisa ornatrix Bella moth - Utetheisa ornatrix, ventral veiw.

Bella or Rattlebox Moths are one of the most colorful moths found in Florida. Unlike most moths Bella are active during the day.

The Bella moths wing pattern is extremely variable, it is however the only moth in Florida that has a pink and yellow forewing with rows of black spots ringed in white. The hindwing is pink with an ragged black border.

The Bella moth or Rattlebox moth as it is also called, is diurnal or active during the day rather than nocturnal like most other moths. Adult moths have a 1 3/4 inch or less wingspan.

Bellas generally breed the year-round in Florida. Host plants are believed to be limited to members of the Crotalaria (Rattlebox) family of plants, the larva stores the alkaloids it receives from these plants making it toxic to potential predators, a trait that carries over to the adult moth.

Habit and habitat - Adult Bella moths concentrate around Rattlebox plants, there are two native species of Rattlebox, one is Avon Park rattlebox - C. avonensis the other is Rabbitbells - C. rotundifolia.

Pink-striped Oakworm Moth-
Anisota virginiensis

Pink-striped Oakworm Moth, dorsal view.

Pink-striped Oakworm caterpillar.

Caterpiller Photo by James Solomon,
USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

This moth has several broods year-round in Florida and the caterpillar occurs in numbers large enough to defoliate the Oak trees they infest.

The Pinkstriped Oakworm larvae are greenish brown with four pink stripes (Bottom picture at left). Females moths are larger than the males, wingspan is from 1 5/8 to 2 5/8 inches.

Adults of this specie do not feed and are active during the day. Female (dorsal side) is orange with pale purple at the margins of the wings, males are dark brown with red on the hindwing and has a translucent white spot on the forewing. Host plants are various Oak (Quercus) species, with the heaviest infestations occurring in late summer through the fall.

Long-tailed Skipper-Urbanus proteus

Longtailed Skipper- Urbanus proteus, dorsal view. Longtailed Skipper - Urbanus proteus ventral view.

As the name implies, Long-tailed Skippers have long tails, they are brownish-black on the dorsal side with an iridescent blue-green body and wing bases, forewings have a band of lighter spots. Hindwing has a continuous brown band on the ventral edge. Adult wingspan is about 2 inches.

The Long-tailed Skippers have 3 or 4 generations per year and are common in Florida, as large numbers of this butterfly migrate from the southeast and Atlantic coastal states to the Florida peninsula every fall to overwinter here, returning northward with the arrival of warmer weather.

Larva have no hairs or spines, are light green with a black dorsal line, a yellow lengthwise stripe and black head with reddish patches. Larval host plants include various members of the Pea family (Fabaceae).

Adults feed on nectar from a variety of plants including Bougainvillea, Lantana, and Shepherd's needle.

Mangrove Skipper Butterfly -
Phocides pigmalion

The Mangrove Skipper inhabits Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) thickets on both the east and west coasts of the Florida peninsula. The Red Mangrove tree is the sole caterpillar host plant, adults feed on the nectar from a variety of plants including Mangroves, Shepherd's needle, and citrus trees.

Wing span is 1 7/8" - 2 3/4", wings are dark brownish-black with iridescent blue scaling/ streaks above and below, hindwing with a submarginal row of light blue spots. Head has white face. Fast, powerful flight - stopping often to feed, often perches on the underside of leaves.

Caterpillar is deep red with bright yellow-orange bands, during last instar larva color changes to a creamy white, larva makes shelters by binding leaves together with silk. Flights from November to August in central and south Florida.

Common Checkered-Skipper
Pyrgus communis

Common Checkered-Skipper Butterfly

The Common Checkered Skipper can be found just about anywhere throughout Florida, they like open areas with a little bare ground and low growing vegetation. Adults feed from a wide variety of flowers.

Dorsal side of males is bluish-gray, female is black, ventral side is off-white with gray to olive green bands. Both sexes have white spots forming median bands across both wings. Checkering is variable.

The Common Checkered-Skipper is virtually indistinguishable from the White Checkered-Skipper by sight alone.

Polka-Dot Wasp Moth
Syntomeida epilais

Also called the Oleander moth, after the Oleander shrub, a common larval host plant. This brightly colored moth mimics the colors and patterns of a wasp to ward off potential predation by birds.

The day flying Oleander moth is iridescent blue on its wings and abdomen with a bright orange tipped tail end, symmetrical white spots on its wings & two white spots on its sides. The caterpillars feed ravenously on the Oleander shrub and can defoliate entire plants. Females emit ultrasonic signals to attract their mates rather than pheromones like most moths.

Ruddy Daggerwing
Marpesia petreus

A male Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly mimics a dead leaf.

Resembling a dead leaf with its wings folded, the Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly even has long "daggers" at the back of the hindwing that look like the stem of a leaf. Upperside is orange with three black lines on each wing.

This butterfly is found in hardwood hammocks and forests, the Florida native Ficus citrifolia, a type of Banyan and the cultivated Common fig are larval host plants.

Ruddy daggerwings are a large butterfly with a wingspan of 3 3/4 inches, adults feed on the nectar of the Giant milkweed, Lantana, Geiger tree (Cordia species) and others. Males will perch high on a tree and watch for females to fly below.

Found year round in S. Florida the Ruddy daggerwing is most common from May through July.

Butterflies & Moths
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