13 June 2011

Atala Butterflies

Sometimes you get a phone call at the nature center that makes your day and thanks to Carrie I was really happy when she called and said she had a whole mess of Atala Butterfly larvae to give the nature center.

Atala Butterflies, Eumaeu atala, are a colorful hairstreak that is limited in the United States to just Southeastern Florida. Once not long ago their population was almost entirely wiped out due to habitat destruction of the host plant, coonties were sweeped clean when developers came in. Now not only are coonties being replanted across the area but so the butterflies continue to thrive.

The larvae are bright orange with yellow spots and for a caterpillar I found them a little on the gooey side. They eat coontie leaves that are young shoots when they first hatch and as they grown they favor more developed leaves.

We decided to release 4 dozen Atala Butterfly larvae on our parking lot coonties and 5 or 6 larvae we brought into the nature center to ranch. They just started hatching this week so you will have to come back to see the results!

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