Fun Facts About Florida Butterflies
March 14 is national #LearnAboutButterfliesDay and we thought what better way to celebrate than to share some lesser known fun facts about Florida’s butterflies. Here are the ones that were new to at least one of our team members. Please enjoy!
- Florida is home to more native butterfly species than any other state east of the Mississippi. Our count? Over 170 butterfly species are native to our state.
- Over two-thirds of these species (115 to be precise!) have been seen in Hillsborough County.
- Florida’s official state butterfly, the Zebra Heliconian, eats both nectar and pollen. Scientists think that eating pollen contributes to the Zebra Heliconian’s relatively long life: these butterflies tend to live for several months.
- Zebra Heliconians share communal roosts at night. The oldest butterflies in the roost wake the others up in the morning by gently nudging them.
- Florida’s largest butterfly is the Giant Swallowtail. Its wingspan can exceed six inches.
- By comparison, Florida’s smallest skipper is the Southern Skipperling. Its wingspan typically ranges between 5/8 - 7/8 inches.
- The Cofaqui Giant-Skipper is the state’s largest skipper. Its wingspan can be as large as 2 7/16 inches.
- Native to Tampa Bay’s sandhill habitat, the Cofaqui Giant-Skipper can fly as fast as 40 mph.
- Florida has over 60 rare butterflies; 44 of these are considered imperiled or critically imperiled. Four are listed on the S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species list.
- Once thought to be extinct, residents throughout south Florida helped save the Atala simply by planting Coontie – the plant Atala caterpillars eat – in chemical-free gardens. (Author’s note: Pesticides and other chemicals kill caterpillars.)
There are 60 natural communities in Florida that support butterflies. Thirty-two of these habitats are in decline. This is where you can help. Stop by Little Red Wagon Native Nursery for tips on butterfly gardening and to pick up some plants to #NurtureNative #butterflyeffecttampa.
Hope to see you soon!