Large butterfly with a wingspan up to 5-1/8 inches. The upperside is dark brown to black with yellow bands. The broad yellow postmedian band is broken on the forewing but entire on the hindwing. The hindwing has a single black tail with a central yellow stripe. The thorax and abdomen are black with yellow stripes. The caterpillar is green above, with a pale brown head, and pinkish-brown below, with a yellow lateral line, a row of small blue spots on each abdominal segment and a yellow osmeterium. There are two large tan false eyespots on the thorax, with a large black center and a white area above. There is a small orange patch on the back with a blue spot on the leading edge. Older caterpillars are pale yellow. The chrysalis is green or pinkish-brown.
Southeastern United States and Mexico; strays to New York in the north in the United States and to Cuba in the West Indies.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
At least three broods per year in Florida. Common to abundant in West Florida mid-February to late October; common to abundant in North Florida mid-January to late October; common to abundant all year in Central Florida and South Florida; scarce in the Keys.
Swamps, hammocks and flatwoods; also agricultural areas and roadsides.
At least three broods per year in Florida. The spherical, cream-colored or pale yellowish-green eggs are laid singly on the young leaves of host plants.
Adults beat their wings continuosly while feeding. They sip minerals and water from mud. During a mating flight, the female flies near the ground and the male flies a foot or two above the female.
Native larval host plants include the cultivated trees red bay (Persea borbonia var. borbonia), swamp bay (Persea palustris) and sweet-bay (Magnolia virginiana); scrub bay (Persea borbonia var. humilis) also is a probable larval host plant. Native nectar plants include coastal sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), the cultivated wildflower purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum), the weedy Spanish-needles (Bidens alba var. radiata), swamp azalea (Rhododenron viscosum) and other species of Rhododendron and possibly Virginia iris (Iris virginica).
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.