Found at Fairchild: Generations of Atalas in the Garden

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I've been happily observing atala butterflies here in the Garden for just over a year now. I've been fortunate enough to photograph them in the larval stage of a bright red caterpillar with yellow spots, as pupae, emerging adults, adults hungrily sipping nectar from the longjohn tree (Triplaris cumingiana), as mating adults, and finally the other day caught one laying her delicate little yellow eggs on a coontie leaf once again. What a happy circle of life!

Notes: The longjohn tree is not found naturally in the atala's native Southeast Florida range. I wonder what, if any, effect that might have on them.

Also, I've recently noticed a new behavior I hadn't expected from the atalas. I've been seeing dozens of them just hanging out in the Rainforest display area. They just seem to be resting on leaves, but many of them at a time on just one or two plants. I've talked to the anoles in there and asked them to please not eat these rare beauties. Not sure they'll listen.