Much to my surprise, two Atala butterflies (Eumaeus atala) were flying about our yard. Its red abdomen and black wings marked with metallic blue are quite distinctive. Once thought to be extinct, this tropical butterfly is considered to be rare and limited to Palm Beach, Broward & Miami-Dade Counties in its U.S. distribution, according to the University of Florida Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The only cycad native to the United States, the Florida coontie (Zamia floridana) is its larval host plant. The coonties growing in pots on our front deck are now flushed with soft, crash new fronds.
Awestruck I was to find a female atala butterfly ovipositing (egg-laying) just a few feet from our front door in low light about 6pm, far later in the day than its reported usual time of activity.
She laid about 4o creamy white eggs that should hatch in 4 to 5 days. I’ll be waiting and watching.