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Butterflies often seen on the horse trails

These are some of the more common butterflies seen while horseback riding around Cocoa

As you explore the impressive forests, scrub and swamps you will see many of the butterflies detailed below. Sadly, the life of a butterfly is very short - from 3 to 10 days. Most adult butterflies found in Florida feed on flower nectar. Some visit a variety of flowers and others seem to prefer a more specialized menu.

Butterflies generally are attracted to brightly colored simple flowers that are not too deep and that are wide enough for good perching platforms.

Most of the butterflies breed all year round so you are guaranteed to see some of them on your trail ride.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra LongwingIn 1996, Governor Chiles designated the Zebra Longwing as Florida's official state butterfly. The zebra, easily identified by its long black wings striped with yellow, is found in all parts Florida year round.
 
Zebras fly slowly and don't startle easily, making them easy to follow and observe. A zebra resting at dusk can be gently coaxed to climb on your finger and to return, unflustered, to its perch. Zebras roost in groups, returning to the same location each night.
 
Zebra longwings feed on nectar and pollen and they are the only butterflies known to eat pollen which is probably why they have a long lifespan of about six months. If denied pollen, they live a more typical lifespan of about one month.
 
Zebras are especially fond of the nectar of plants of the Verbena family. Passion vines (Passiflora) host zebra eggs and larvae. Passion vines contain toxins that are consumed by the larvae and make the adult butterflies poisonous to predators. The tiny (1.2mm x 0.7mm) yellow egg is usually laid on new foliage, sometimes in a group. The newly emerging caterpillar is yellow. It will go through four or five instars (moltings), becoming white with six bands of black spots and black branched spines and a greenish-white head that is also spotted and has two spines. When it pupates it forms a chrysalis that looks like a spiny curled, dried leaf. If disturbed, the chrysalis makes a rasping sound.
 
The entire process, from the time the egg is laid until the butterfly emerges, is dependent on temperature, taking longer during cool weather. Under optimum conditions, it make take as little as three weeks.

Gulf Fritillary  (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf FritillaryThe Gulf fritillary is a medium-sized, orange butterfly with black markings and somewhat elongated wings. Its hind wings below are covered with numerous silvery, mercury-like patches that distinguish this butterfly from the similar and equally common monarch. Fond of open, disturbed sites, the Gulf fritillary frequently stops to nectar at colorful flowers, especially Passion Vine. The Gulf fritillary is one of several migratory species in the Southeast. As fall approaches, adults begin a mass southward migration eventually arriving in the warm confines of South Florida to overwinter.
 

White Peacock (Agraulis vanillae)

White PeacockAs its name implies, the white peacock is a whitish butterfly, but it has light orange wing borders and a lot of gray brown markings. Each forewing bears a single solid black spot and the hind wings have two smaller black dots. The white peacock is a common butterfly of open, weedy sites along waterways or ditches, where its larval host plants typically grow. It has a fast, low, erratic flight and is often difficult to approach. Females are significantly larger than males. Although common throughout southern Texas and Florida, the species regularly moves northward each year to establish temporary breeding colonies.
 

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Giant SwallowtailWith a wing span often exceeding five inches, the giant swallowtail is one of the largest North American butterflies. Ranging throughout most of the U.S., the giant swallowtail is particularly abundant in the southern states. The giant swallowtail is at home in a wide variety of habitats including forest edges, agricultural farmland, dry pinelands, citrus groves and suburban gardens. The larvae feed on citrus-family plants such as prickly ash, hercules club, wild lime, hoptree, all kinds of citrus trees and rue (Ruta graveolens). The larvae occasionally become minor pests on commercial citrus crops.
 

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Red AdmiralOne of the most common, widespread and recognizable butterflies in the world, the red admiral occurs throughout much of Europe, Asia and North America. The bright red stripes of the wings above are in stark contrast to the mottled blue, cream and brown undersides. The red admiral has a strong affinity for flowers and is a familiar sight in most gardens, backyards, roadsides, city parks, forest edges and open areas. Strong and agile on the wing, the red admiral is best observed and most easily approached while nectaring. Adults can also be found at rotting fruit, tree sap and animal dung. Males readily establish territories and often return to the same perch day after day.
 

Viceroy (Basilarchia archippus) April - Sept

Viceroy(Basilarchia-archippus)Closely resembling the toxic monarch and queen butterflies, the viceroy was once thought to be nothing more than a clever palatable mimic. Recent scientific research, however, has shown that the viceroy does in fact sequester toxic chemicals from its larval host plants that make it very bad-tasting to a variety of predators. A classic example of "Mullerian mimicry", all three noxious species (the viceroy, monarch and queen) gain protection by displaying a similar overall color pattern. Any predator attempting to eat any one member of the species trio is likely to get a bad stomach ache or at least a bad taste in its mouth. When a similar looking butterfly is subsequently encountered, the predator will probably avoid the meal, not wanting to make the same unpleasant culinary mistake again.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

Cloudless Sulphur

The cloudless sulphur is a large yellow butterfly with a fast, powerful fight. Males are virtually solid yellow above and below and have few visible markings. Females may be yellow, orange-yellow or white, and they have a faint dark border on the upper surface of their wings. Although a common year-round resident in much of peninsular Florida, the cloudless sulphur rapidly extends its range northward each spring and eventually establishes breeding colonies as far north as Canada and the Midwest by the end of summer. As cool autumn weather approaches, adults from the final generation begin a return migration, coming back to the Deep South to overwinter.

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Contact Information      Horseback Trail Rides - 1020 Camp Road, Cocoa FL 32927
Telephone                          321-632-7085
E-mail                            shirley@floridahorsebacktrailrides.com

 
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