Large butterfly with a wingspan to 4-1/4 inches. The upper surface is mostly black. The hindwing has a black spot centered on a larger orange spot. The male has a yellow band near the edge of the wings and the female has a row of yellow spots. The hindwing of the female has an iridescent blue band. The abdomen has longitudinal rows of small yellow spots. The caterpillar is green with black bands in each segment and yellowish-orange spots in the bands.
Widespread in North America; Mexico, Central America and South America.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Uncommon all year in peninsular Florida; may stray to the Keys.
Wet prairies, marshes and open, disturbed sites.
Three or more broods per year in South Florida, mostly from February to September. The eggs are laid singly on the leaves and flowers of the host plants.
The caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers of the host plants. Native larval host plants include the cultivated mock bishopsweed (Ptilimnium capillaceum), spotted water-hemlock (Cicuta maculata) and water dropwort (Oxypolis filiformis/). The larvae also feed on the cultivated kitchen herbs parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Native nectar plants include the cultivated shrub firebush (Hamelia patens) and the wildflower purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum).