Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 3-3/4 inches. The upperside is bright orange, with three thin, straight black lines on each wing. The underside is mottled brown and black and resembles a dead leaf. The body and wing bases are white. The tip of the forewing is elongated. Each hindwing has a long dagger-like tail. The medium-sized caterpillar has a row of long spines along the back and two long horns on the top of the orange and black head. The body is orange and white with pale blue and black markings.
Peninsular Florida, West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America; strays into southwestern and central United States.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Rare and scarce along the west coast of Florida up to Tampa; uncommon to common all year in South Florida; uncommon all year in the Keys. Caterpillars are present all year in South Florida.
Tropical hammocks, hammock edges and swamps.
Three or more broods per year in Florida. The yellowish eggs are laid singly on the new growth of the host plants.
Males perch in trees 15-30 feet above the ground, watching for females. They may descend to investigate orange-colored objects. Adults typically land with the head facing downward.
Caterpillars eat the young leaves of host plants. Native larval host plants include the two native figs: short-leaf fig (Ficus citrifolia) and strangler fig (Ficus aurea). Larvae also feed on the nonnative common fig (Ficus carica) and probably other nonnative figs. Adults nectar on the nonnative giant milkweed (Calotropis procera).
Gann, G.D., M.E. Abdo, J.W. Gann, G.D. Gann, Sr., S.W.
Woodmansee, K.A. Bradley, E. Grahl and K.N. Hines. 2005-2016. Natives For Your Neighborhood. http://www.regionalconservation.org.
The Institute for Regional Conservation. Delray Beach, Florida USA.