Medium-sized, long-winged butterfly with a wingspan up to 3-3/4 inches. The upperside of the wings is bright orange with black markings; three black-ringed white spots are present at the front edge of each forewing. The underside of the wings is brownish, with long silver spots. The hindwing has a black chainlike band at the outer margin. Females are larger and darker than males, and have more markings. The caterpillar has an orange head with black patches and two black horns on the top. The slender body is orange, with green stripes on the sides and rows of long, black branched spines. The odd-shaped chrysalis is brown and resembles a dead leaf.
Southern United States, west to California; migrates north to New Jersey and the Midwest; West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Adults present all year in Florida; mature larvae present all year in South Florida. Northern populations migrate into North Florida during the late summer and fall; adults overwinter.
Most open upland habitats, gardens, and open, disturbed sites.
Three or more broods per year. The yellow eggs are laid singly on many parts of host plants, especially new growth. Females will reject plants on which eggs have already been laid. Eggs also may be laid on nearby plants to avoid ant predators.
Ant predators eat both eggs and young larvae; they are attracted by the nectar glands on the leaves of the host plants. Adult butterflies visit the same flowers in a linear sequence during the day and also on subsequent days. Caterpillars may be carnivorous.
Caterpillars feed on most parts of host plants, especially young leaves. Native larval host plants include the vines corkystem passionflower (Passiflora suberosa) and maypop (Passiflora incarnata). Larvae also will feed on the edible passionfruit (Passiflora edulis). Native nectar plants include shrubs such as Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum), silver sea-oxeye-daisy (Borrichia frutescens) and wild-sage (Lantana involucrata); wildflowers such as blue porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), scorpionstail (Heliotropium angiospermum) and snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea); vines such as yellowroot (Morinda royoc); and the herb pitted stripeseed (Piriqueta cistoides subsp. caroliniana). Weedy native nectar plants include jack-in-the-bush (Chromolaena odorata), cheesytoes (Stylosanthes hamata) and Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata). Adults also will feed on the nonnative common landscape plant paper flower (Bougainvillea glabra) and the nonnative invasive shrubverbena (Lantana camara).
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.