It’s the time of the year that animals are becoming more active all around the island. Recent mornings have provided the opportunity to see bobcats prowling along the golf course woodlines, gopher tortoises out foraging on the dew soaked grass as well the less conspicuous butterfly activity, flying all around wildflower and native plant areas. Most of the time, I provide photos of birds, mammals and plants that surround us here on the islands. These are often quite large and obvious in the landscape, but a little more challenging to find, identify and photograph are butterflies. This is especially true of this weeks Sweet Shot, the White Peacock.
As you can see, the White Peacock is white with brown markings and orange margins. It’s forewing has a small round black central spot, while the hindwing has two. The wingspan of the White Peacock is 2” – 2.75” wide.
The White Peacock is found in the Southeastern United State as well as Central and South America. Regardless the location on the globe, it prefers open, moist areas such as edges of ponds and streams and alongside shallow ditches and wet weedy fields. In this habitat, a few of it’s favorite host plants can be found, which include the Water Hyssup, Bacopa mannieri and Frog Fruit, Phyla nodiflora, which are both low – growing perennials found in the south. In Florida, a favorite nectar source for adults is the Shepherd’s needle, Bidens Pilosa and Beggartick, Bidens alba.
The adult lay small green eggs on the underside of the host plant, Water hyssop. The emerging caterpillars are black with white dots and branched spines. Once laid, the eggs hatch in 3-10 days. The White Peacock breeds year-round in South Florida due to our warm weather. With this, there are always new opportunities for viewing the recurring generations.
If out for a wildlife walk or a bike ride along the miles of paths on the Sanibel, you will inevitably encounter the open, wet, habitat that is preferred by the White Peacock. The quick, erratic flying behavior of this butterfly might make it tougher to see and to get a close look at, but if you have the opportunity to see it, it is well worth the time. This butterfly is just one of many species of butterflies that you can enjoy on the islands and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to highlight more soon.
• The two small black spots on each of the White Peacocks hindwings resemble a peacocks ( the bird ) eyespot, giving this butterfly it’s common name.
• Male White Peacock butterflies pick out a territory of approximately 50 square feet that is home to host plants. They then fend off other males that try to enter the area in hopes that nearby females will be attracted to their area of host plants.