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Publication #SP151

Florida Butterflies Sheet 21

J.L. Castner2

More than 100 species of butterflies occur in Florida. Many can be found throughout the state for most of the year and are easily attracted to various species of nectar-producing plants. A thorough discussion of Florida butterflies and their food and nectar plants can be found in IFAS Special Series Fact Sheet SS-WIS-22, titled Butterfly Gardening in Florida.

Black swallowtail. The caterpillar of the black swallowtail is 1-1/2" to 2" long (Plate 1). It often is called the "parsley worm" because it feeds on parsley and other umbelliferous plants (carrot, wild carrot, dill, celery, fennel, etc.). Older larvae are green with black and yellow spots or markings on each segment.

Plate 1. 

Black swallowtail larva.

The black swallowtail butterfly, also called the American or parsnip swallowtail, has a wingspan of 2-1/2" to 3-1/2" (Plate 2). On the upper surface of the forewings are two parallel rows of yellow submarginal spots that contrast with the basal black color of the wings. These spots are present on the hindwings, but with a curving row of blue spots between the rows of yellow.

Plate 2. 

Black swallowtail adult.

Monarch. The larva of the monarch is 1-3/4" to 2" long. It has colorful yellow, black and white rings that run the length of the body (Plate 3). Paired black filaments occur near the head and posterior end of the caterpillar. Larvae feed on milkweeds and dogbane.

Plate 3. 

Monarch larvae.

The monarch butterfly has a wingspan of 3-1/4" to 4" (Plate 4). The base color of the wings is orange, with black wing veins and thick black marginal areas containing rows of white spots. The color of the upper surface of the wings is deep-orange; that of the undersurface is much paler.

Plate 4. 

Monarch butterfly.

Viceroy. The 3/4" to 1-1/4" long viceroy caterpillar is bumpy and spiny with two large dark, spiny "horns" behind the head. The larva may be brown or olive green with a large cream-colored spot in the middle (Plate 5). Common food plants are willow and poplar, although the caterpillar is also found on aspen and cottonwood.

Plate 5. 

Viceroy caterpillar.

The viceroy butterfly has a wingspan of 2-1/2" to 3" (Plate 6). Its orange and black coloration is very similar to that of the monarch butterfly, but the hindwings have a curving black line of pigment parallel to the margin. The orange color of the upper surface and undersurface of the wings is more nearly the same in the viceroy.

Plate 6. 

Viceroy butterfly.

Cabbage butterfly. The larva of the cabbage butterfly is called the imported cabbageworm and is about 1/2" to 3/4" long (Plate 7). It is drab-green with many tiny bumps on the surface and fine hairs that give it a velvety appearance. A thin yellow longitudinal line runs the entire length of the back. The caterpillar feeds on members of the cabbage and mustard family as well as on flowers, including nasturtiums.

Plate 7. 

Cabbage larva.

The adult, which also is known as the European cabbage butterfly or small white, has a wingspan of 1-1/4" to 1-3/4" (Plate 8). The upper surfaces of the wings are white with a single dark spot and dark tip on the forewings, and a single dark spot on the hindwings. The undersurfaces may have a yellowish cast, and two dark spots are visible on the forewings.

Plate 8. 

Cabbage butterfly.

Florida atala. The larvae are a distinctive orange-red color with a double row of raised yellow bumps down the back (Plate 9). They are about 1-1/4" to 1-1/2" long and often are found in groups. The larval food plant is Florida coontie.

Plate 9. 

Florida atala larva.

The slow-flying butterfly has a wingspan of 1-1/2" to 1-3/4" (Plate 10). The head and thorax are black with small patches of light-blue iridescent scales. The abdomen is orange. The wings are black or dark-brown. The underside of the hindwing has a large red-orange spot near the abdomen and many iridescent blue spots. Larger blue areas are found on the upper surfaces of the wings.

Plate 10. 

Florida atala butterfly.



This document is SP151 (IN032), one of a series of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. This document is available for sale as a high-quality, color publication. For ordering information or to order using VISA or MasterCard, call 1-800-226-1764. Date first printed: January 1994. Reprinted: February 1997. Reviewed: July 2007. Please visit the EDIS Website at


J.L. Castner, scientific photographer, Department of Entomology and Nematology, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611. The term plates, where used in this document, refers to color photographs that can be displayed on screen from EDIS. These photographs are not included in the printed document.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension service.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim Dean.