The butterfly season here in Florida is a long one, actually all year. June begins an all-out attract of all types of Florida butterflies on the host plants (plants butterflies lay their eggs on and sustain their caterpillars on their way to butterfly hood). In the butterfly gardens all over south Florida people are calling, emailing and texting do you have milkweed, dill, and parsley and passion vines on and on?
The summer season is off with a bang, not only are people looking for host plants to feed these hungry little critters but in the past couple of weeks people have been bringing all kinds or caterpillars because they don’t have enough food to feed them. I got about 70 Gold rims (Polydamas) but on my pipe vine to feed, several people have given me 100 or so Monarch caterpillars to raise in my rearing boxes eating about 10 milkweeds a day. Passion vines are disappearing from butterfly gardens all over south Florida as fast as they are planted because of thenumbers of Zebra (Florida’s state butterfly) and gulf fritillary caterpillars are abundant this year. It seems more this year then usually according to my backyard and the many butterfly lunatics network here on the west coast.
Here are a couple of butterflies we need to attract which maybe aren’t so common here or as well known. Phaon Cresent is one of the first butterflies seen in spring flying over grassy lawns where their host plant grows frog fruit (Lippa nodafloria). People spend large amounts of money each year to keep this out of the turf areas. People you know my feeling on grass; you’re always going to have weeds in the turf in south Florida. So give a butterfly a break and let them eat a little. By the way Frog Fruit is considered a great ground cover.
White Peacock is a beautiful small butterfly that can be white, pearl or light blue colored according to the lighting with wavy brown lines and eyespots on both wings. It usually feeds and basks in the sunwith its wings open, making it easier to see and observe. Usually found near water and open fields. The host plants are frog fruit, green shrimp and ruellia. Easy to attract, like I always say plant the right plant for the right butterfly and they will come.
Ruddy Daggerwing host plant is the strangler fig. Most people remove as soon as they are spotted because they fear they may strangle the tree it co-exists with. Very abundant in rural areas of South Florida, the Everglades and the Keys were the strangler fig is less likely to be removed. Ruddy Daggerwing have beautiful projections from its hind wings that are dagger looking, a bright orange with black strips, once seen you will never forget it, just beautiful. I keep saying the caterpillar looks like a 57 Chevy with its high fins on its back.
So don’t get discouraged it might be an hour or a month but they will come if the right plant is in place but beware when it works, you may become amember of the butterfly lunatics of South Florida. Remember if you’re willing to help these guys out always be sure you have enough food plants (HOSTS PLANTS) around so you don’t panic in the end. KEEP BUTTERFLYING!!!
Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, www.naplesbutterfly.com. He also can be heard every Saturday at 4 PM on his call-in garden radio show, “Plant Talk with Mike Malloy,” on 98.9-WGUF.