Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 2-7/8 inches. The upperside is orange-brown, often flushed with pink, with darker wing bases, a white bar on the leading edge, and a black median band. The underside of the hindwing has a white spiderweb pattern with four prominent submarginal eyespots. The caterpillar ranges in color from greenish to black, with transverse yellow bands, white spots, and many hardened, branched spines. The dark head has many long, unbranched hairs. The chrysalis is mottled gray or yellowish-green.
North America, West Indies, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia - all continents except Antarctica and Australia.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Rare to uncommon in western and northern Florida May-December; rare to uncommon in central and southern Florida May-December; rare to uncommon in the Keys April and September-December; may not be present in some years; may breed occasionally in the state. This species migrates north from Mexico, sometimes in large numbers, in March and April and spreads throughout the eastern United States up to southern Canada. The number of butterflies and the area repopulated vary greatly from year to year. Adults are usually present in Florida in late summer and fall; caterpillars may be present from February through early November.
Any type of open, sunny habitat, including disturbed areas.
One to three broods per year in the southern United States from May through October. The small green eggs are laid singly on the upperside of the host plant leaves or on the fruits. The caterpillars make silken nests by tying leaves together.
Males perch on the ground in open areas, waiting for females.
Caterpillars feed on the leaves of host plants. Native larval host plants include purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) and rabbit's tobacco (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium). Adults nectar on flowers in the composite family (Compositae), such as native species of asters (Aster spp.), blazing stars (Liatris spp.), common buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis.), Florida privet (Forestiera segregata),ironweeds (Vernonia spp.), many milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) and many plants in the mallow (Malvaceae) and pea (Fabaceae) families. Adults also nectar on nonnative species such as cosmos (Cosmos spp.) and red clover (Trifolium pratense).
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.