It was a busy morning at the torch flower bed today! I saw a new butterfly – the White Peacock butterfly along with a pair of mating Gulf Fritillary butterflies.
The White Peacock butterfly is a native butterfly in the brush-footed (Nymphalidae) family of butterflies. These brush-footed (or sometimes called four-footed) butterflies are so-called because of their tendency to stand on only four of their six feet – tucking the remaining two up underneath them.
This butterfly is fairly common (conservation status G5 – demonstrably secure globally) and can be found throughout the southeastern united states and down through Mexico and Central America. The adult butterfly only lives for about four months – you can see from this picture that this is probably an older butterfly given its somewhat battered wings. Its coloration is still beautiful however – you can see its characteristic black eye-spots that give it its name “peacock”.
The host plants for these butterfly include:
- Herb-of-grace (Bacopa monnieri),
- Wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis),
- Southern frogfruit (Lippia stoechadifolia),
- Carolina false vervain (Verbena carnea)
- Turkey-tangle frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora)
- Beggarticks (Bidens alba), as well as other flowers in the Asteraceae family.
- Source: Florida Wildflowers Association.
White Peacock butterflies are most commonly found in disturbed areas, ditches, canals, pond edges, marshes, lakes, roadsides and anywhere with weedy low-lying plants. Though, I saw this butterfly nectaring at a fairly tall plant, I wondered if it was here because of all the spanish needle plants in the back yard. I looked it up, just to check and found out there are two very similar plants – one is a native (Bidens Alba) and one is a non-native (Bidens Pilosa) and much debate about them.
Though they are both commonly considered a weed, I like to let the backyard run fairly wild so I can enjoy all the visitors who come for the wildflower feasts. So, now I’ll need to go investigate and try to get the native specie established in a flower bed to ensure an on-going supply of host plant for these lovely butterflies!
While I was taking pictures of the White Peacock butterfly, this pair of Gulf Fritillary butterflies photobombed my shots while doing their mating dance. I managed to get a few pictures of them as well.