The array of lively butterflies in Florida can be found right throughout the state. They can also be found in swampy areas and they enjoy the warmth and humidity that is typical of some sections of the state. These include the Zebra Longwing butterfly and Cloudless Sulphur.
Florida’s Official Butterfly
The official butterfly of the state of Florida has stripes that are distinctive. They set it apart and make it easy for both residents and tourists to identify it on sightseeing tours or while going about their regular activities. This butterfly is the Zebra Longwing which is also known as the Zebra Heliconian.
The Zebra Longwing gets its name from its yellow white stripes, which contrast beautifully with its bold black color as it glides gracefully through the air. This butterfly species is one of only a few that feed on pollen. Their diet helps them to live longer than other butterflies that don’t eat pollen, so instead of only living for a month, Zebra Longwing butterflies can live for up to 6 months.
It likes shady gardens, so the layout on your space should be planned carefully so that plans can thrive but the butterflies can rest at night peacefully in your garden. When consuming nectar, it prefers to drink from plants such as verbana and Spanish needle.
How many species of butterflies live in Florida?
Florida is located east of the Mississippi River, so its conditions are ideal for butterflies to thrive. Among all the states that are found east of this great river, Florida has the highest diversity of butterflies. At any point in time you could spot one of at least 180 species of butterflies that live in Florida.
You’ll find that certain colors are dominant among the butterflies that live in Florida. This means that you will see a lot of butterflies that are mainly blue, yellow or white. Other colors are mixed into the design of each butterfly to make it distinctive.
In addition to a vast array of yellow butterflies, visitors can also expect to see swallowtail, brushfoot and hairstreak butterflies as they travel around Florida. The swallowtail butterflies are the largest of all these.
Yellow and white butterflies in Florida belong to the Pierdae family and include:
- Barred Yellow
- Cloudless Sulphur
- Cabbage White
- Sleepy Orange
Blue and hairstreak butterflies include:
- Red Banded Hairstreak
- Grey Ministreak
- Amethyst Hairstreak
- Eastern Pine Elfin
Many of the brushfoot butterflies in Florida have orange wings. They include the following:
- Pearl Crescent
- Ruby Daggerwing
- Julia Heliconian
- Monarch butterfly
Swallowtails are the largest of the butterflies that are found in Florida and there are at least 10 species which have been identified in the state. They commonly appear in gardens and around flowers.
Swallowtails in Florida include:
- Black swallowtail
- Polydamas swallowtail
- Pipevine swallowtail
- Zebra swallowtail
When is the best time to see butterflies in Florida?
Whether you live in Florida or are visiting just to enjoy the natural beauty of the habitat, the best time to observe butterflies on the wing is in summer. You’ll also see a lot of butterflies in Florida during fall.
You’ll see butterflies in Florida that you won’t see in your home state. If you’re visiting from another country, it’s even more likely that you’ll see lots of butterflies that you’ve never observed in your own country.
When butterflies are everywhere, it adds to your vacation experience. In order to make the most of that, you need to have a high-quality camera and video camera ready. This will help you to record the natural beauty of the butterflies in Florida.
While there are butterflies all across Florida, you won’t find every species in some areas. If you’re intentionally visiting Florida in order to view butterflies, ensure that you plan your route before you go, so that you’ll see the butterflies that you’re interested in.
There are around two dozen species of hairstreak butterflies in Florida. These can be found flitting around small shrubs and near the ground, so be on the lookout for these as you travel.
Some of the hairstreak butterflies that are in Florida may look alike at first glance. However, on closer examination you’ll see that the bands of color around the edges of their wings are different. If you see groups of butterflies, it helps to take photos and then examine them in detail later. You may find that there are several different species in your pictures.
What do Florida’s butterflies eat?
Florida’s butterflies usually get most of their nutrients from nectar. They also drink water and they drink fluids from some of the fruits that humans consume.
Butterflies drink all of these liquids through their proboscis. The proboscis is a tubical structure that’s found at the front of their head. This is usually coiled under their head while they are flying around and doing their regular activities.
When a butterfly sees a Spanish Needle plant or another plant with flowers that it likes, it can uncoil its proboscis. The nectar that it consumes provides it with a wide range of nutrients including sucrose dextrose and other forms of sugar.
However, nectar isn’t just a sweet treat for Florida’s butterflies. Butterflies in Florida also need to drink nectar in order to get amino acids, inorganic ions and chemicals which help them to defend themselves from predators. For example, nectar contains plant defense chemicals.
These defense chemicals vary from one plant to another. These chemicals help to keep off animal predators and also defend the plant from other plants. When a butterfly drinks these kind of chemicals regularly they become concentrated inside its body and they can be detected by predators.
These chemicals play an important part in efforts to protect endangered species. They do this by discouraging natural predators from decimating the butterfly population. For this reason preservation efforts should also focus on cultivating plants that are known to play this protective role in Florida’s butterfly populations.
Some butterflies in Florida also eat pollen. Pollen acts as an important source of protein and can help to extend a butterfly’s life span. However most butterfly species do not eat pollen so they don’t receive this benefit.
While adult butterflies in Florida rely on nectar and pollen, the same is not true for Florida caterpillars at earlier stages of life. That is, butterflies in their larval stage don’t require nectar. Caterpillars eat the plants that butterfly eggs are left on.
If you’re cultivating a garden in order to support preservation efforts, you can expect to see some of the leaves on your plants missing from time to time. This is part of what they were designed for. They help to supply the nutritional needs of caterpillars, so that they can develop into beautiful butterflies.
Protecting Florida’s Butterflies
Florida has several species of endangered butterflies. They are also butterfly species that used to be found in Florida but are no longer there. Some of these are Skipper butterflies, such as the Florida Zestos Skipper and Keys Zarucco Skipper. Florida residents who are enthusiasts are encouraged to grow flowers that attract butterflies and provide them with pollen and other food sources that help them to thrive.
There are many wild flowers that are native to Florida and will attract butterflies to your yard. You don’t have to concentrate on flowers that can be found right across North America. By utilizing wild flowers that thrive in Florida’s climate, you’ll create the ideal habitat for Giant Swallowtails and other Florida butterflies without making your garden labor-intensive.
Florida wildflowers such as a Common buckeye, which is also known as Black-Eyed Susan, will attract a variety of butterflies to your garden. Wildflowers should be planted in areas where they are able to receive at least 4 hours a full sun each day. This supports healthy flowering. The Zebra Heliconian, Gulf Fritillary and others like flowers of the passion fruit vine in both adult and larval stages but this should be planted where it can receive sun and shade, since some species of butterflies enjoy eating in the shade as well.
The Miami Blue is one of the butterflies in Florida that has been listed as an endangered species.