In my Backyard

White Peacock Butterfly

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.

White Peacock butterfly. St. Petersburg, Fl. Photo by Erica Lauer Vose.

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”.

White Peacock butterfly. St. Petersburg, Fl. Photo by Erica Lauer Vose.

The host plants for these butterfly include:

Foreground: White Peacock, Background: Gulf Fritillary, Midground: possible sweat bee or orchid bee. St. Petersburg, Fl. Photo by Erica Lauer Vose.

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!

Mating pair of Gulf Fritillary butterflies, St. Petersburg, Fl. Photo by Erica Lauer Vose.

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.