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Eumaeus atala

Copyright by: Beryn Harty, 2014

Small butterfly with a wingspan up to 2 inches. The abdomen is red-orange. The upperside of the male wings is deep black with an iridescent blue or teal green overlay and markings. The female has a bright royal blue iridescent streak at the base of the forewings and iridescent blue spots at the base. The underside of the wings on both is dull black; the hindwing has a large red-orange spot and three rows of irregular iridescent ultramarine spots. The eyes are ringed with ultramarine. Caterpillars are bright red, with two rows of lemon-yellow spots on the upper side.
South Florida, West Indies.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Subtropical parts of southern Florida. Short-lived introduced colonies in other areas. Garden abundance is moderate to high.
Hammocks, pinelands, and urban areas.
Breeds year-round; most common March-April, October-December. The cream-colored eggs are laid on the upperside of leaftips in clusters of 60 or more.
Natural History:
Caterpillars feed in groups out in the open. The cycads on which they feed contain a toxic chemical; birds, lizards, and other animals attempt to eat the caterpillars but learn to avoid them. Adults sometimes roost in trees. They fly in a slow, moth-like flight pattern.
Larval host plants include the native coontie (Zamia integrifolia) and a wide variety of introduced cycads. Nectar plants include the native shiny-leaved wild-coffee (Psychotria nervosa), blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and white indigoberry (Randia aculeata) and the weedy Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata).
Once abundant in peninsular Florida, commercial harvesting of host plant and urbanization reduced Atala to a single known colony by 1965. Since then it has made a remarkable recovery. For more information, visit the Florida Museum of Natural History's Florida Wildflowers & Butterflies website, the University of Florida/IFAS Featured Creatures website, and Butterflies and Moths of North America. See also the Florida Wildflower Foundation's Know Your Native Pollinators page.

Copyright by: Beryn Harty, 2014

Copyright by: Holly Salvato, 2019

Copyright by: Beryn Harty, 2014

Copyright by: Beryn Harty, 2014

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