New backyard butterfly: Little Yellow (Eurema lisa)

Eurema lisa on Richardia grandiflora. Boca Raton, FL, October 25, 2013.

Halloween is right around the corner and the butterflies are popping out of the woodwork. I’ve seen the “standard” passion vine butterflies (heliconians attracted to the Passiflora vines I have growing along the backyard fence) all summer, and they’re still out in force, but I’ve also got the smaller “grassy” butterflies flying around now. One that I’ve been trying to get a good picture of for a long time is the lovely little yellow (which, by the way, is actually its standard American name), Eurema lisa:

Little Yellow butterfly (Eurema lisa) on Sida acuta (Common wire weed) Boca Raton, […]

Eumaeus atala butterfly, at long last


I have a new puzzle on my hands. I don’t know of any places in the neighborhood with enough coontie to support the Atala Blue butterfly (Eumaeus atala), but I’ve got one “sleeping” on my pool deck:

It’s been there all morning, from 8 a.m. when I got the right profile above, to noon, when I got the left profile, below.

From now on when we’re on our evening strolls, I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for its only known larval host plant: coontie (Zamia floridana). It’s a plant I want to have in my […]

Zebra Heliconian larvae


Back around Labor Day I wrote a couple of short pieces about the various egg-laying episodes I’ve seen on the hybrid passionvine in our back yard. This particular plant is a cross between our native Passiflora incarnata and a Mexican variety, thus explaining why our “3-lobed” native has 5-lobed leaves. The star of the September post was our state butterfly, the Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonia); in that article I showed a few pictures of the adult form and the eggs. But I wasn’t able to hit for the cycle—the life cycle, that is—meaning showing photos of egg, larva, chrysalis, and […]

New backyard butterfly: Heraclides cresphontes


There hasn’t been much to post about recently, with all the wind and clouds keeping photo ops to a minimum. The heliconians (zebras and julias) are still hanging out around my passionvines, and the blues are still festooning the scorpion tail. I’m also seeing sulphurs around, as I have been all summer—no surprise with False Tamarind (Lysiloma latisiliquum), the larval host tree of Large Orange Sulphur (Phoebis agarithe), on the premises—but trying to get a picture of those strong and erratic fliers is like trying to get a picture of the wind itself.

I’ve also been seeing a couple of […]

Backyard butterfly: Cassius Blue


One great thing about working from home is that it’s relatively easy to see wonderful things on your lunch break—that is, if you’ve planted the right backyard habitat. Last week I wrote about the butterfly-attracting qualities of Heliotropium angiospermum, or Scorpion’s-Tail, which is conveniently located between my pool and the backyard fence. Back then, I was captivated by the sight of a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly resting on one of the exquisitely sculpted leaves of this showy little flower.

Today I went outside to see who else might have been visiting (before the Pearl Crescent there was the Mallow […]

Early morning lepidoptera

Pearl crescent's underwing, showing the diagnostic "crescent."

Was out early last Sunday mowing (with a reel mower, no motors) the lawn (all volunteer plants, not watered except by the rain) and watching the boy play in the sandbox when I noticed this striking little butterfly on our good old Florida native scorpion’s-tail (Heliotropium angiospermum, which is a wonderful little plant that I need to write up soon):

The butterfly’s name is Phyciodes tharos, Pearl Crescent. Taxonomists have decided that butterflies like this belong to the family Nymphalidae, subfamily Nymphalinae. That means it’s a “true” brush-footed butterfly. What’s a “brushfoot”? That means unlike most insects, with […]

Backyard animals in June

There aren’t a ton of animals visible in the steamy sunny heat of late June here in Boca; those few that there are, apart from the omnipresent mockingbird and his counterpart in red, the cardinal, tend to be insects. Here’s a blue dasher dragonfly that seems to favor a perch on the spicewood tree on the side of our house:

As you can see from the red eyes, this is a not-quite-mature male (the adult male has green eyes). But he’s got the adult male body coloration: blue abdomen with black on the tip, and yellow on the […]

Agraulis larvae

A couple of weeks ago (December 2, actually), I happened to be outside and found this larva of Agraulis vanillae, the beautiful Gulf Fritillary, on our maypop (passiflora) vine. I can’t get over how those little feet work so well to keep these guys attached to whatever they’re clinging to at the moment.

Seeing this caterpillar was a bit of a surprise, because most of that entire fence on the side of the house is covered with a very aggressive Aristolochia vine that these fritillary caterpillars can’t eat. But way back when we planted, we had two (or […]

Butterfly update (late)

Last month, I finally managed a decent snapshot (still not a great picture) of the Polydamas Swallowtail (Battas polydamas) butterflies that enjoy our pipevine:

I still haven’t been able to get the entire animal in focus, but at least it’s better than some of my previous attempts:

These guys just love our Aristolochia vine; I’ve seen half a dozen in flight at once on the side of our house when the weather’s nice and the season’s right. These days, they’re not flying so much anymore, and I haven’t seen any eggs in a few […]

More from the backyard

You don’t have to travel far to see some amazing things. Take this morning, for instance. Marcella and I had planned carefully to be able to be at Yamato Scrub early in the morning, so we could give Eric a nice stroll, check up on the Least Grebes, and see what else might be seen at our local natural area. Things don’t always work out as planned, however…