Monarch – a very attractive reddish brown and black butterfly. The red and black color pattern is a warning coloration to predators indicating that the butterfly tastes bad. Monarchs migrate from north to south in the fall of the year. Monarch butterflies (adults) migrate south through Texas from Canada and the eastern half of North America every fall to the 10,000 ft. tall hills near Angangueo, Mexico where they spend the winter (this site was discovered in 1976!). In the spring, surviving adult butterflies begin migrating north, breeding and developing through 2 to 4 or more generations as they spread north. Caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed. Adults feed on nectar from numerous wild flowers. The monarch butterflies are distasteful to birds because of chemicals obtained from caterpillar feeding on the milkweed leaves.
Giant Swallowtail – This adult butterfly is one of the largest swallowtail species, with a wingspan of up to 6 inches. Wings are black with yellow markings near wing margins and spots forming a diagonal band across the fore wings. Caterpillars are dark brown with creamy white mottled markings, making them appear much like bird droppings. When disturbed, caterpillars display a pair of horn-like, orange glands (osmeteria), which emit a foul smell. Adults prefer nectar from lantana, azalea, bougainvillea, bouncing Bet, dame’s rocket, goldenrod, Japanese honeysuckle, and swamp milkweed. Caterpillars feed on leaves of host plants including citrus, prickly ash and rue.
Black Swallowtail – is a black butterfly with yellow markings near the margins of the forewings and hindwings and more limited blue and red markings on the hindwings. Its wingspan can reach 4 ½ inches. Full-grown parselyworms or caterpillars can reach 2 inches in length and are smooth and green, marked with black bands and yellow spots. Adults prefer nectar from red clover, milkweed, and thistles. The larvae feed on carrots, fennel and dill.
Cloudless Sulfur – One of the larger sulfur butterfly species, wingspan of butterflies can be over 3 inches. Males are brilliant yellow above with no markings. Females have some black marginal markings. Caterpillars, 1 inch long when fully grown, are pale yellowish green with yellow stripes along their sides. Each body segment is also marked with rows of black dots. Adults prefer nectar from thistle and morning glory.
Gulf Fritillary - Is a striking, bright orange butterfly from the family of the Heliconiidae or longwing butterflies, and like other longwings this species does have long, rather narrow wings in comparison with other butterflies. It is a medium to large butterfly, with a wingspan of 2 to inches. Its underwings are buff, with large silvery spots. It takes its name from migrating flights of the butterflies sometimes seen over the Gulf of Mexico.
The larva or caterpillar of the Gulf Fritillary grows to approximately 2 inches in length and is bright orange in color and covered in rows of black spines on its head and back. The spines are soft to the touch and do not sting. However, the larvae are poisonous if eaten, as the bright coloration advertises. The larvae feed exclusively on species of passion flower such as Maypop, Yellow Passionflower and Running Pop. Their toxic flesh provides Gulf Fritillary caterpillars with excellent protection from predators.
Buckeye – The bold pattern of eyespots and white bars on the upper wing surface serve to startle or distract predators, especially young birds. They are medium size and are generally dark butterflies with strong fast zigzagging flight patterns that makes it hard to keep them in sight. Adults feed on nectar but they also need bare ground where the males perch for long periods looking for a mate. The female lays eggs singly on buds or the upper side of leaves. The caterpillars feed on a hosts of plants including snapdragons and toadflax. The Buckeye migrates from southern to northern areas throughout the spring and summer. Most die in the cold northern climate replenished by new immigrates the following year.
Photos by Master Gardeners Jean Marsh and Bonney Kennedy