Red, black & blue 2017

Last year Atala (Eumaeus atala) butterflies laid eggs on potted coontie (Zamia integrifolia) plants near our front door in honor of Independence Day, as seen above.

The eggs hatched, but the brightly colored tiny larvae (look closely) were the victims of predation last year.

This tropical butterfly once was thought to be extinct in Florida. A wild colony was “re-discovered” near Key Biscayne in 1979, and the Atala population has rebounded due to relocation efforts and the increased use of coontie, its larval host, as an ornamental plant. The Atala butterflies in our yard may have come from butterflies released at Disney’s Wabasso Beach Resort under the guidance of Dr. Zak Gezon, the Butterfly Conservation Program Manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This year the Atalas laid their eggs well before Independence Day and hatched in about a week. The larvae (caterpillars) feasted for about 2 weeks, side by side on the softer, younger foliage of one plant …

… and length-wise on an older, tougher plant …

The two larvae above have pupated …

Note the silken guide wires and the exuviae (the cast-off outer skeleton).

Hope they soon will be butterflies in about 10 days.

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