by Kyle D. Sweet, Superintendent, The Sanctuary Golf Club, Florida Master Naturalist
Southwest Florida is home to an abundance of butterflies that we can enjoy year-round. The White Peacock Butterfly is one of those permanent residents in our area that’s typically found along the banks of canals, ponds and shallow ditches, where several of its host plants reside.
Host plants are plants that the adult female lays eggs on and the hatching larvae feed on. Every butterfly has at least one or more host plant and in some cases multiple butterflies can share a host plant. Bacopa ( Water hyssop ), Ruellia, and Frogfruit are all host plants for the White Peacock and are all water loving plant species. The adult butterfly lays in eggs on the underside of the leaves of the host plant and within an approximate 40 – day period, a complete metamorphosis occurs from egg, to larvae, to pupae and finally the adult. The adult butterfly lives for approximately 14 days and the cycle repeats. Key to the entire process is the host plant. With adequate protection of our local waterways comes the encouragement of native and other beneficial plants for both enhancement of water quality and native habitats, both of which Sanibel protects, providing for the White Peacock and many other species to prosper.
As a larvae, the White Peacock butterfly is a black spiny caterpillar but as an adult it’s a medium sized, primarily white butterfly with distinctive large “ eye spots “ on each of its four wings, reminiscent of the spots found on peacock feathers. They are quick flyers, seldom sitting still and are often seen landing on the ground or amongst low growing vegetation, landing just long enough for a quick grab of nectar to fee on and then off to the next source.
Sometimes the smallest of our creatures are the most fun and rewarding to learn. The White Peacock Butterfly is a common one to see on the islands due to our many miles of interior and surrounding waters. Enjoy finding one and identifying. Once you know this one, you’ll want to learn many more.