An Abundance of Julia

Julia butterflies (Dryas iulia) were amazingly abundant at the Captain Forster Hammock Preserve when we visited there on 4-12-2019.  Near to the parking lot, they were sipping nectar from snow squarestem (Melanthera nivea) shown above.

Nearer to Highway A1A, these tropical butterflies were nectaring on common beggarticks (Bidens alba).  The undersides of julia butterflies are a light-orange brown with a pale band through the center.

Common beggar ticks (Bidens alba), also known as Spanish needles, is a native plant of disturbed areas and roadsides that can be somewhat weedy.  Below is a male julia butterfly nectaring on common beggarticks at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in February during the 2019 Volunteer Nature Stewardship Class.  The leaf behind the butterfly belongs to a red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle).

Once rarely sighted at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, julia butterflies have become much more commonplace in Indian River (and even Brevard) County with warming temperatures.

Male butterflies are brighter orange than female, and their forewings are marked by black spots …

Female julias are a duller orange, and their forewings are marked by black bars.

Also known as the Julian heliconinan or the flame, these tropical butterflies range from Brazil  to south Texas and Florida.  They are part of the Nymphalidae family, the brush-footed butterflies, as are the Florida state butterfly, the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonia), and the gulf fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae).  These butterflies prefer corkystem passionflower vine (Passiflora suberosa) as their larval host plant.

Visit the Florida Museum of Natural History website to learn more about julia and other butterflies.