Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths) in the Christopher B. Smith Preserve

Order Lepidoptera Characteristics: About 11,000 species of lepidopterans are found in the United States and Canada. Lepidopterans undergo complete metamorphosis including four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult.

An adult butterfly or moth has three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen). The head has a pair of antennae and a pair of compound eyes. Most adult moths and butterflies have a sucking mouth structure in the form of a long coiled proboscis. Most use the proboscis to suck nectar from flowers. The thorax has three pair of jointed walking legs and two pair of wings. The abdomen contains the reproductive structures. Most of the body, wings, and legs are covered with scales.

A caterpillar's body is long with a well-developed head with simple eyes. There are thirteen body segments, three thoracic and ten abdominal. Each thoracic segment has a pair of jointed legs. Some of the abdominal segments have fleshy unjointed prolegs with tiny hooks. Caterpillars have chewing mouthparts and feed on plants.

Thirty-seven lepidopteran species in 15 different families have been photographed and identified in the Smith Preserve. Three additional species have been photographed, but not identified.

Interactions in the Smith Preserve: Moths and butterflies pollinate a variety of flowers. They also play an important role as prey of spiders, beetles, mites, wasps, dragonflies, robber flies, crickets, birds, amphibians, lizards, and small mammals. In addition, they are hosts of a variety of parasitoids. In the case of parasitoids in lepidopterans, it is usually a tiny braconid wasp that lays her eggs into a caterpillar. The eggs hatch and young wasps develop within the caterpillar, eventually killing it.

Species Name
Common Name
Hypercompe scribonia
Utethesia bella
Nomophila nearctica
Samea ecclesialis
Unknown Species
Coleophora sp.
Pyroderces sp.
Hyperstrotia sp.
Erebidae ?
Litoprosopus futilis ?
Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria
Macaria distribuaria
Erynnis horatius
Hylephila phyleus
Lerema accius
Nastra neamathia
Phocides pigmalion
Urbanus dorantes
Urbanus proteus
Eumaeus atala florida
Hemiargus ceraunus
Leptotes cassius
Spodoptera latifascia
Agraulis vanillae
Anartia jatrophae
Danaus gilippus
Danaus plexippus
Heliconius charitonius
Junonia coenia
Phyciodes phaon
Papilio glaucus
Ascia monuste phileta
Euremia daira
Phoebis philea
Pyrisitia lisa / Eurema lisa
Elasmopalpus lignosellus
Anisota virginiensis
Antheraea polyphemus
Automeris io
Eacles imperialis
Enyo lugubris
Xylophanes tersa
Dryadaula terpsichorella
Argyrini sp.

Family Arctiidae

Hypercompe scribonia ... Giant Leopard Moth

As is shown in these photographs, this very spiny, orange and black-banded caterpillar was observed crawling on Urena lobata(Caesar Weed).

According to p. 467 of Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner, this caterpillar is a middle instar. Later instars are large, black, and have densely set stiff bristles. As shown in these photographs, the sharpy pointed bristles arise from raised warts.

Adult moths are nocturnal, and have a white forewing with bluish-black blotches, some solid and some hollow. The underwing is white with terminal spots near the apex. The wingspan is 5.7 to 9.1 cm. The dark-blue abdomen has orange markings.

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Family Arctiidae

Utethesia bella ... Rattlebox Moth

Family Arctiidae (The Tiger Moths) typically have brightly colored wings. They use two methods of repelling would-be predators. During daylight hours, bright colored wings advertise they are poisonous to eat. At night, ultrasonic sounds warn bats to avoid eating them.

Unlike most moths, the rattlebox moth (aka bella moth) is active during the day. There are several color forms, as shown above. This moth breeds continuously in Florida. After mating, females lay clusters of about twenty yellow eggs on Crotolaria sp.(Rattlebox) leaves.

After hatching from its egg, a caterpillar chews a hole in the plant's seed pod and crawls inside. Once inside, the caterpillar feeds on toxic alkaloid juices. After growing, an Utethesia bella caterpillar exits the pod and crawls to another plant species to pupate. Because of the food the caterpillar has ingested, the caterpillar, pupa, and adult are poisonous if ingested by other animals. To avoid being poisoned, some spiders are known to cut stands of webs surrounding a trapped rattlebox moth to remove it from the web.


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Family Crambidae

Nomophila nearctica ... Lucerne Moth

On November 11, 2015, movement by the photographer disturbed this small moth. It began flying low to the ground, eventually landing on top of a grass blade.

On November 14, 2015, the moth was identified from this photograph by Jacob Aaron Gorneau, Contributor to <BugGuide.Net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. Jacob stated, "Looks like a worn Nemophila nearctica."

Adults are nocturnal with an average wingspan of 24–35 mm. As seen in this photograph, when at rest, adults overlap their wings, creating a long, narrow appearance.

Better seen on an adult that is not "worn", the forewings are long, grayish-brown with two side-by-side dark oval spots near the middle of each wing, and another dark bilobed spot farther away from where the wing attaches to the thorax. Hindwings are much broader and have a pale brownish-gray color and whitish fringe.

Nemophila nearctica caterpillars feed on grasses, lucerne, clover, Polygonum hydropiperoides (Mild Water-Pepper), and a variety of other low-growing plants.

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Family Crambidae

Samea ecclesialis ... Assembly Moth / Stained-Glass Moth

On November 11, 2015, this tiny moth was photographed as it rested on a leaf of a citrus tree in the Smith Preserve.

On November 12, 2015 it was identified by Peter Homann, a Contributor to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. Homann described this species as "distinguished from the similar looking Samea multiplicalis by the black sections of the wing fringes."

Also on November 12, 2015, Robert Lord Zimlich, a Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>, stated, "a year-round moth in Florida, but this is the first male (abdominal tufts on segment five) for November." (see photo below)

Additional distinguishing characteristics of this species include: adult forewing grayish-brown with three groups of spots; spots on males are larger than those on females; male's hindwing has large white patches covering most of the basal two-thirds of the wings.

Females lay their scale-like (flattened) eggs singly or in small groups on the host plant,Richardia brasiliensis (Tropical Mexican clover). Once the eggs hatch, larvae spin thin webs among the leaves and feed on both sides of the leaves. About a month later, larvae spin silk shelters and pupate inside.

According to <BugGuide.net>, there are four species of Samea in America north of Mexico. Males of Samea spp. are smaller than females; females have a wingspan of ~20 mm.

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Family Crambidae

Unknown Species ... Crambine Snout Moth

This tiny moth was photographed at 11:45 A.M. on November 28, 2012 in a grassy area near the Smith Preserve Pond.

On July 25, 2015, it was identified as a member of Superfamily Pyraloidea by "Blocky", Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

This superfamily contains at least 16,000 described species worldwide. Most, like this one, are small moths.

On December 1, 2015, the moth tribe Argyrini was identified by Kyhl Austin, another Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>.

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Family Colephoridae

Coleophora sp. ... Case-bearer Moth

The genus Coleophoridae contains 1,350 described species. Larvae feed on the seeds, flowers or leaves of host plants. For many Coelophorids, the host plants are members of Family Asteraceae (The Aster, Daisy, or Sunflower Family). As caterpillars get larger, they construct protective silken cases. This characteristic gives the genus its common name, "Case-bearer Moth."

The particular moth shown here is a "streaked" Coleophorid. Note the streaks of buff and white extending the length of its closed wings. Also note its long antennae.


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Family Cosmopterigidae

Pyroderces sp. ... Pink Scavenger Worm

This microlepidopteran was in its cocoon when collected. As shown in the first photograph, the cocoon was under the curled edge of a sand live oak (Quercus geminata) leaf. Next to the cocoon were what appeared to be two fuzzy, orange galls. The leaf was placed in a small juice glass; a porous cloth was secured to the top of the glass. Several days later, this very tiny moth was found dead in the bottom of the glass.

On January 21, 2014, the moth was identified from these photographs by Terry Harrison, Contributing Editor of <Bugguide.net>, hosted by Iowa State University Entomology Department, T. Harrison explained there are two species in genus Pyroderces that live in Florida.

Like other members of Family Cosmopterigidae, this specimen has narrow wings. Hindwings are surrounded by a fringe of hairs. Antennae are moderately long and legs are long and slender with spines projecting at the joints.

On January 29, 2013, the specimen was examined under a microscope. At that time, a round organism was observed on the ventral side of the moth's thorax. Close examination of earlier photographs show it has been present all along. It is assumed to be a parasite, probably a mite. More research is needed.

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Family Erebidae

Hyperstotia sp. ... Graylet Moth

On April 23, 2014, this caterpillar was dangling from silk from a Quercus geminata (Sand Live Oak) tree in the Smith Preserve. Note: its head looks like a flattened square. The anal prolegs are directed backward and splayed outward. Setae arise from many of its red spots. Could it be an early instar of Hyperstrotia flaviguttata (Yellow-Spotted Graylet)? Hopefully, someone will be able to ID this very interesting looking pale green caterpillar.

On April 22, 2015, the genus was confirmed as Hyperstotia by John and Jane Balaban, Contributing Editors to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

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Family Erebidae ?

Litoprosopus futilis ? ... Palmetto Borer Moth /

Cabbage Palm Caterpillar ?

On December 19, 2014, this 3.25 mm caterpillar was isolated from leaf litter collected under a citrus tree in the northeast cabbage palm / oak hammock of the Smith Preserve. These photographs were produced using photomicroscopy.

On January 9, 2015, the caterpillar was identified as possibly the palmetto borer by John and Jane Balaban, Contributing Editors of <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. The Balabans based their identification on the shape of the head and the thoracic shield and the long hairs. They went on to comment, "But we think on something this small you would have to have someone who knows about hair patterns and silk glands, etc, to key it out. We usually just match images and read descriptions on later instars."

The cabbage palm caterpillar is the larval stage of an owlet moth that can be found in much of Florida. The adult moth is fawn-colored, with a wingspan of 5 cm. Each hind wing has a 5 mm in diameter dark eyespot. Within each spot are two white linear dashes.

As explained by the Balabans, more research is needed to confirm the identification of this caterpillar. For this reason, a "?" is next to the family name, scientific name, and common name.

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Family Geometridae

Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria ... Blackberry Looper

This slender, green caterpillar was sighted on Balduina angustifolia (Yellow Buttons) on November 20, 2014. The caterpillar's orientation and color allowed it to mimic a leaf of the plant. The odd-shaped head appeared to be covered with flower pollen.

This individual was identified on November 28, 2014 from these photographs by John and Jane Balaban, Contributing Editors of <Bugguide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Entomology Department.

Characteristics that help distinguish blackberry looper from other species are 1) its size: larva are less than 2.5 cm. long, 2) its coloration: pale green with tiny white granules and spiracular stripes, 3) having an anal plate that is strongly pointed (see 1st image below), and 4) having small forward-projecting horns on the first thoracic segment and head (see 2nd image below).

Blackberry loopers are found from Canada south to Florida and Texas, where they eat blackberry, strawberry, and composite flowers. Individuals pupate overwinter in cocoons spun in leaf litter. Adult moths have a wingspan of 14 to 23 mm. Their wings are green with two lighter bands of tannish-green on the forewings and one band on the hindwings. The wing edges are tipped with tannish-green scales.

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Family Geometridae

Macaria distribuaria ... Southern Chocolate Angle Moth

On December 17, 2013, this moth was spotted crawling over pine needles in the Smith Preserve. Because of its many wavy brown markings, it was difficult to see, and it would not have been noticed if it had not been moving. It was placed on the fingertip of the photographer for more photographs.

On December 25, 2013, it was identified from these photographs as probably Macaria distribuaria by Jason D. Roberts, Contributing Editor of <Bugguide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Entomology Department. Jason reported that its wings were not fully extended and that made it somewhat difficult to identify. Apparently, it had just eclosed (emerged) from its cocoon.

There are over 1,400 species of geometer moths indigenous to North America. Many have specific hosts for their larval stage. The larval host of Macaria distribuaria in the Smith Preserve is probably Pinus elliottii densa (Southern Florida Slash Pine.)

Members of Family Geometridae are called geometer moths. “Geo” is Greek for “the earth” and “metron” refers to “measure”. Geometer larvae are sometimes called inchworms because their looping movement makes them look like they are measuring the earth.

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Family Hesperiidae

Erynnis horatius ... Horace's Duskywing Skipper

Like all other skippers, Erynnis horatius has flight behavior that can be described as skipping quickly from flower to flower. And like all other skippers, it has a large stout body, broad head, and its caterpillars live in tubes spun of silk and attached to host plants.

To distinguish this skipper from others, the top of the forewings of a female adult Erynnis horatius is brown with variably-sized glassy spots. The hind wings are more pale and mottled with light and dark brown scales. The wing edges have brown fringes. In males, the forewings are dark brown with little contrast and no glassy spots. The wing edges do have brown fringes. This photograph shows a female.

The wingspan of both sexes is 36 to 49 mm. When these skippers land, they spread their wings parallel to the ground. This behavior distinguishes spreadwing skipper species from folded-wing skipper species.

A Horace's duskywing skipper caterpillar is hairy, light green and speckled with white. Its head is red, yellow, or orange. Quercus virginiana (Virginia Live Oak) is a host plant found in the Smith Preserve. Caterpillars feed on the oak leaves.

Horace's duskywing skippers live in oak scrubs and adjacent open spaces. Adults feed on a variety of flowers, including Richardia grandifolia (Erect Richardia), as shown in this photograph.


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Family Hesperiidae

Hylephila phyleus ... Fiery Skipper

The wingspan of the fiery skipper is 25 to 32 mm. Like other folded-wing skippers, fiery skippers fold their wings over their backs as shown when at rest. These skippers have short antennae when compared to other skipper species.

The dorsal surface of a male's wing is pale, clear yellow-orange, with a large black stigma and a zigzagged border. The female has tawny spots. As shown in the first photograph, the ventral surface of the wing on a male is yellow-orange with scattered brown dots. The bottom of the female is dark brown with a very irregular orange band.

Caterpillars are tan with three long dark stripes. Host plants for the caterpillars are grasses.

Adults eat nectar from a variety of flowers. The individual in the first photograph is getting ready to extend its curled proboscis into a Richardia grandifolia (Erect Richardia) flower.


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Family Hesperiidae

Lerema accus ... Clouded Skipper

On November 11, 2015, this skipper was flitting among low-to-the- ground plants in the open, wooded area between the boardwalk and the pond in the Smith Preserve.

The predominant color of this skipper is dark chocolate brown and the forewing has several orange (transparent?) spots. Both wings appear to have lavender scaling toward the margins.

The species was identified on November 11th and later confirmed from these photographs by Cliff Ivy, Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.Net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. He further identified it as a female and explained, "Note dark vertical hindwing band and subapical forewing spots that bends outward."

The wingspan of this species of skipper is 32 to 45 mm.

Caterpillar hosts include a variety of grasses. Adults feed on various flowering plants including Bidens alba (Beggarticks), Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush), and Lantana involucrata (Wild Sage).

The range of this skipper in the United States includes from Georgia west to Texas and south to Florida. It is also found in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela and Colombia.

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Family Hesperiidae

Nastra neamathia ... Neamathia Skipper

This skipper was photographed in the scrub area of the Smith Preserve on April 28, 2014.

On April 28, 2015, it was identified as a member of Subfamily Hesperiinae by Kyhl Austin, Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

On May 5, 2015, it was identified as Nastra neamathia by Cliff Ivy, Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>. According to <BugGuide.net>, the species name "neamathia" is attributed to Neamathia, the Seminole chief who resisted the US army's attempt to move his tribe inland to sandy, infertile land.

Larval food plants of Nastra neamathia are grasses, mainly Big Bluestem and Little Bluestem. Adults visit flowers for food.

As shown in this photograph, this butterfly, like other members of Subfamily Hesperiinae, typically holds its wings partly open when at rest. This butterfly's dorsal wings are brown with two small pale dots on the central forewing. The ventral surface is brown with a very pale spot band on the hind wing.

The range of this species is peninsular Florida, SE Texas, and south to Costa Rica.

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Family Hesperiidae

Phocides pigmalion ... Mangrove Skipper

On January 11, 2017, this mangrove skipper was photographed as it fed on the nectar of Chromolaena odorata (Jack-In-The-Bush) in the Smith Preserve near 14th Ave. N and a private residence.

As can be seen in this photograph, this butterfly's wings are brownish-black and the hindwing has iridescent blue streaks.

The wing span is 4.8 to 7 cm.

Larva feed on red mangrove; adults will feed on nectar of mangrove, Bidens alba (Beggarticks), Citrus, and other flowers.

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Family Hesperiidae

Urbanus dorantes ... Lilac-banded Longtail Skipper

Urbanus dorantes' wingspan is 38 to 51 mm. It has a distinctive long tail with checkered fringes. Other distinguishing characteristics include: grayish-brown body and wings, forewing with prominent clear spots, and underside of the hindwing with two bands of clear spots.

This longtail skipper lives in uplands, the margins of hammocks and weedy, disturbed places. The Smith Preserve offers perfect habitat.

There are four generations each year in southern Florida. A new generation begins when a female lays greenish-colored eggs singly on flower stalks and leaves. Each caterpillar has a green or occasionally orange-brown body with a chain of yellow spots outlined with darker color on the sides. It has short hair and a black head.Caterpillars feed on legumes, including Desmodium incanum (Ticktrefoil) and live in a shelter of leaves tied together with silk.

Adults feed on flower nectar from a variety of plants. The last individual is sipping sweet nectar from Richardia grandifolia (Erect Richardia.) Photographs three and four show two individuals that have lost their tails, perhaps to birds.


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Family Hesperiidae

Urbanus proteus ... Long-Tailed Skipper

This caterpillar was found inside a rolled leaf of Desmodium incanum (Ticktrefoil/Beggar Ticks).

Confirmation that it is Urbanus proteus was made from these photographs on November 9, 2013 by John and Jane Balaban, Contributing Editors to <bugguide.net>, hosted by Iowa State University Entomology department.

Like other skipper caterpillars, this species has a large head. This particular species is yellow-green with distinctive yellow stripes down the length of its body and a dark stripe down its back. As is shown in the photograph below, this individual was 1 cm long.

Note the silk threads on the surface of the leaf. Prior to being discovered, the caterpillar had used the silk to keep the leaf rolled around its body. After photographs were taken, it pulled on the silk threads to re-tighten the leaf and encapsulate itself.

All adult skippers have moth-like bodies that are thick and furry. Their wings are triangular and their antennae end in knobs with tiny hooks. Skippers get their name from their flight pattern of darting from one place to another.

Adult members of this species have been photographed in other areas of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center. To see those photographs and learn more about these skippers, click here.

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Family Lycaenidae

Eumaeus atala florida ... Atala

Family Lycaenidae are the Gossamer-Winged Butterflies. This family includes 40% of the known butterfly species. Adults are small (usually less than 5 cm) and brightly colored. The atala butterfly is a native member of this group. It is a metallic blue hairstreak. Unlike other hairstreaks, it does not have small tail-like extensions from its hind wings.

This small, beautiful butterfly is found in tropical pinelands and hardwood habitats and is more common on Florida's southeast coast than other areas of Florida. To learn about the Atala's introduction to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, click here.

The caterpillar's main food is a native cycad Zamia floridana (Coontie). Females lay eggs on the leaves of coontie and caterpillars eat the leaves. Later, individuals pupate on the same plant. The coloration of both the caterpillar and adults warn would-be predators they are toxic and should be avoided. Caterpillars are bright orange with yellow dots. As shown above, adults have a distinctive bright red abdomen. The toxicity of both stages is the result of the caterpillar eating a plant chemical in the cycad. Adults feed on plant nectar.


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Family Lycaenidae

Hemiargus ceraunus ... Ceraunus Blue / Florida Blue

Hemiargus ceraunus is one of the most common and among the smallest butter lies in Florida. It has a wingspan of only between 1.9 and 2.5 cm.

Males are brightly colored with iridescent blue dorsal wings. The underside of the wings is light gray with many dark markings and spots. Females are less colorful but still beautiful. With females, the blue scaling is at the base of the wings and top of the thorax. The underside of the female is mostly brown with black and white highlights. Both the male and female have eyespots. The eyespots on both the top and bottom sides of the hind wing function to attract a predator to the non vital parts of the butterfly. Attacked to this end, the butterfly is able to escape to safety. Like most other members of Family Lycaenidae, the Ceraunus Blue has white and black bands around its antennae. Photographs one and three are females, photograph two is a male.

Adults are pollinators. In the second photograph above, this individual is sipping nectar from Spermacoce verticillata ( Shrubby False Buttonweed). While eating nectar, the scales of the wings and head collect pollen that is later distributed to other flowers.

A variety of legumes are the host plants for the caterpillar stage of this butterfly.

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Family Lycaenidae

Leptotes cassius ... Cassius Blue

The Cassius Blue is very common in southern Florida along the edges of hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, fields, and disturbed areas. Like other Blues, the Cassius Blue is small (1.9 to 2.5 cm.)

The dorsal side of a male's wing is violet-blue with a white fringe at the border. The dorsal side of the hind wing has a faint dark eye spot. As shown in the picture above at left, the ventral side has dark bands and spots with two black and blue eyespots surrounded by orange. The female's dorsal wing is brown with blue scaling only at the wing bases. The ventral wing has two eyespots similar to those of the male. Although the dorsal wing colors are not apparent in the two individuals above, the one on the left has a bluish white coloration on its ventral wings and is probably a male, while the individual on the right is more brown and probably a female.

Females lay greenish blue, flattened eggs singly on flower buds, flowers, and seed pods of host legumes, including Galactia pp. (Milkpea), Plumbago auriculata (Leadwort), and Lysiloma latisiliquum (wild tamarind). The caterpillars are green to green with pink or darker green markings. Caterpillars are tended by ants that feed on their sugary secretions. It is thought the ants discourage predation and parasitism by other insects.

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Family Noctuidae

Spodoptera latifascia ... Lateral Lined Armyworm

Spodoptera latifascia is a member of Family Noctuidae, the Owlet Moths. The family consists of 35,000 known species, making it the largest family in Order Lepidoptera. There are 30 species in the genus Spodoptera; many are considered plagues, feeding on important agricultural crops.

The name "armyworm" describes the feeding habit of large numbers of Spodoptera sp. caterpillars. They will eat everything in an area. Once the food supply is gone, the entire "army" moves to a new available food source.

As shown in the photograph, a Spodoptera latifascia caterpillar has distinctive lateral lines along its body, giving it its common name, "The Lateral Lined Armyworm." It also has an amber-colored head, which is another distinctive characteristic of this particular species. This caterpillar was identified on November 16, 2012 from its photograph by LaciP, a contributor to <bugguide.net>, hosted by Iowa State Entomology Department

These armyworm caterpillars feed on leaves of low-growing plants and garden crops like tomatoes and eggplant. The individual in the photograph was alone and feeding on Diodia virginiana (Virginia Buttonweed) in the filter marsh of the Smith Preserve.

An adult lateral lined armyworm moth is robustly built with a wingspan is 42 mm. Forewings are drab brown with silver gray markings; hind wings are silver. They are nocturnal.


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Family Nymphalidae

Agraulis vanillae ... Gulf Fritillary


Agraulis vanillae is a native member of Family Nymphalidae. The common name, "Gulf Fritillary", is derived from the fact that it is found in the states that border the Gulf of Mexico and its color resembles the orange/red fritillary flower. The upper side of a Gulf Fritillary's wings is orange, while the underside is buff-colored with silver spots.

Unlike true fritillary butterflies that have more rounded forewings and more compact appearances, the Gulf Fritillary with its long, narrow wings is considered a heliconian (longwing butterfly) like Heliconius charithonia (Zebra Heliconia) and the Dryas iulia (Julia Butterfly).

The larval host of Gulf Fritillaries is passion vine. Since this plant is toxic, birds have learned to avoid eating the caterpillars. A Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is black and shiny, with three reddish-orange stripes and four rows of black spines. Adults feed on the nectar of flowers and are fairly commonly seen in open areas of the Smith Preserve. To read more about the Gulf Fritillaries at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, click here.


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Family Nymphalidae

Anartia jatrophae ... White Peacock

Anartia jatrophae is native to, and commonly observed in South Florida. It can be recognized by its pearly-white background, adorned with buff scales, wavy brown lines, and bands of brown and orange along the wing margins.

The wings are gently scalloped, especially the hind wings. Each hind wing has two dark eyespots and each forewing has one. As seen in the third photograph, the eyespots are visible on both sides of each wing.

Males and females are similar in appearance. In the dry/winter season, the white peacock butterflies are more pale and larger.

White peacock butterflies are often seen flying and basking in weedy areas near water, usually close to the ground. They collect nectar from a variety of flowers.

On the particular days when these last two photographs were taken in the Smith Preserve, Richardia grandifolia (Erect Richardia) was the nectar "flavor of the day". As a result of collecting nectar, white peacock butterflies are great pollinators.

Adults breed year-round and live for one to four months. After mating, a female lays small green eggs on the underside of larval host plants that include Blechum pyramidium (Green Shrimp Plant), Phyla nodiflora (Fogfruit), Ruellia brittoniana (Mexican Petunia), and Bacopa spp. (Water-hyssop).

Caterpillars are shiny and brownish-black with black, branched spines and silver spots. A caterpillar's head has two club-like projections.

These butterflies are prey of insectivorous birds, lizards, and insects.

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Family Nymphalidae

Danaus gilippus... Queen Butterfly

On December 10, 2014, this butterfly was photographed northwest of the Smith Preserve Way wooden bridge.

As shown, adult Queen Butterflies have chestnut brown wings bordered in black. Both forewings and hindwings have two rows of white spots. The forewings have additional larger white spots scattered at the apex. The underside of the hindwing has black veins. Wingspan is 70 to 88 mm.

A male (see photograph) has a black scale patch on each hindwing. These patches are scent pouches. He uses special structures (hair-pencils) on his abdomen to place pheromones from his scent pouches onto the antennae of females. A single female may mate 15 times, and there are multiple generations/year.

Once mated, females lay small, pale green or white eggs singly on leaves, stems, and flower buds of Asclepias curvassavica (Scarlet Milkweed) and other species in Family Apocynaceae (The Dogbane Family). Once caterpillars hatch and begin eating, they incorporate poisonous plant compounds into their bodies. This deters predation.

Adult Queens feed on nectar of a variety of flowering plants.

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Family Nymphalidae

Danatus plexippus ... Monarch

Danaus plexippus, like Danaus glippus ( Queen Butterfly), has milkweed as its caterpillar's host plant. By eating milkweed, plant toxins accumulate inside a caterpillar's body and remain throughout the individual's life, making it distasteful to predators.

Monarch caterpillars have rings of yellow, black, and white on each segment and a pair of black fleshy tubercles at each end. They feed on approximately 1000 different milkweed species in North America.

Both monarchs and queens are orange with black and white markings. In both species, males have scent scales in the middle of their hindwings. The scent is used in courtship. As shown in these photographs, a monarch has black-outlined veins. This characteristic is missing in a queen. Another species that closely resembles the appearance of a monarch is Limenitis archippus (The Viceroy Butterfly). It has a wingspan maximum of only 83 mm, while that of a monarch is 124 mm. A viceroy has a broad black vein that parallels the border of the dorsal surface of its hind wing; this vein is lacking in a monarch.

In South Florida, there are six broods of monarchs each year, individuals are observed year round, and the monarch population may not migrate. However, in the rest of the state and throughout the rest of the United States, monarchs must migrate. A monarch's flight pattern is vigorous flapping, followed by a long glide. This ability to soar and glide helps it cover large distances during annual migrations.

To learn more about monarchs at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, click here.

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Family Nymphalidae

Heliconius charitonius ... Zebra Heliconia

Heliconius charitonius was recognized as the state butterfly of Florida in 1996. In southern Florida, individuals are commonly seen slowly fluttering in the shade of tropical hammocks. The individual in this photograph was resting on a vine in one of the Smith Preserve hammocks areas.

Its long, black wings, striped and dotted by yellow-white markings, distinguish it from other butterfly species. Because zebra heliconians are able to digest pollen as well as nectar, they live up to six months. This is a much longer time that most butterflies can live.

For photographs and additional information about the zebra heliconians at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, click here.

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Family Nymphalidae

Junonia coenia ... Common Buckeye Butterfly

On November 17, 2015, this butterfly was first seen flying close to the ground in a scrub area of the Smith Preserve. It later landed on a sand live oak leaf hanging close to the ground. Habitat for this species is open areas with low vegetation and some bare ground.

As shown in the first and third photographs, the species has a pattern of eyespots and white bars on the upper wings and additional eye spots on the hindwings. Eyespots probably function to deter predators.

Adults feed on nectar from composite flowers like asters, Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue Mist Ageratum) Lantana camara (Lantana), and Bidens alba (Beggarticks). Adults take fluids from mud and damp sand. Obtaining fluids from the sand might have been what was occurring in the first photograph.

Females lay eggs singly on leaf buds or the upper side of leaves of several herbaceous plants from the snapdragon family, including Linaria canadensis (Blue Toadflax). Caterpillars feed on leaves of the host plant.

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Family Nymphalidae

Phyciodes phaon ... Crescent Butterfly

On November 5, 2015, this butterfly was sipping nectar from Bidens alba (Beggarticks), growing on the northern edge of the pond in the Smith Preserve. It flew away before a photograph of its open wings could be taken.

It was thought to be Phyciodes phaon (Phaon Crescent). On November 13, 2015 that identification was confirmed by Cliff Ivy, Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

The forewing of a Phaon Crescent is dark orange with black spots, and it has a pale yellow-orange median band. Winter forms have brown markings on the ventral hindwings.

Phyciodes phaon are small butterflies with a wingspan of only 2.3 to 3.2 cm.

Eggs are laid in small groups on the bottom of host plant leaves. Two related species, Phyla lanceolata and Phyla nodiflora (Fog Fruit/Creeping Charlie), are the host plants. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars eat the leaves.

Adults prefer nectar from flowers of Phyla and Bidens alba.

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Family Papilionidae

Papilio glaucus ... Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Papilio glaucus is a large butterfly, up to 15.2 cm across. Males are easily recognizable. They have tiger-like stripes along the upper edges of the forewings. Also, they have a black stripe along the body.

There are two color morphs of the female. One is a four striped, yellow form that resembles the male but has a more extensive area of blue scales. The other morph is all-black and mimics the colors of Battus philenor (Pipevine Swallowtail). This color mimicry helps protect this morph because predators avoid the distasteful Pipevine Swallowtail. In South Florida where the Pipevine Swallowtail is uncommon, the black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is also uncommon.

The individual in this photograph is a male resting on leaves of muscadine grape in one of the hammock regions of the Smith Preserve. Males often fly along trails looking for females. Both sexes visit flowers for nectar and are observed mid-February to November.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails have three generations each year. The female lays her eggs on a variety of trees including poplar and magnolia. To help it repel predators, each caterpillar has:1) large false eyespots on its thorax and 2) an osmeterium, a forked organ on front of thorax that emits an unpleasant odor.

To learn more about Eastern Tiger Swallowtails at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center, click here.


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Family Pieridae

Ascia monuste phileta... Great Southern White

This butterfly is common across southern Florida, where adults are usually seen flying over salt marshes along the coast.

In the Smith Preserve, this butterfly was flitting from one Richardia grandifolia (Erect Richardia) to another, extending its proboscis inside for nectar.

Male and female Great Southern Whites are somewhat different looking. Females are more heavily marked with black than males and they have a dark spot in the center of the forewing. Although the individual in the photograph has its wings folded, black can be seen through the wing. This is probably a female.

These butterflies breed year round along the East Coast of Florida. Females typically lay yellow eggs on leaves of saltwort. Larvae are yellow with grey stripes and small black bumps. Pupa are black and white and mimic the droppings of birds.

Shown in the second photograph, a distinctive characteristic of this species are its blue-tipped antennae.

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Family Pieridae

Euremia daira ... Barred Sulphur /Fairy Yellow

This butterfly is 25 to 35 mm, making it one of the smaller sulphur butterflies in Florida. The color is variable with the season. Both the male and female are light yellow above with broad black wind tips and margins. The male also has a black bar along the lower margin of the forewing. The hind wing below is dark rust-brown on dry-season (winter) individuals and white on wet-season (summer) individuals. At least three generations are produced each year.

All of these photographs were taken during the dry-season at the Smith Preserve and the butterflies did not expose their upper wings to the photographer. The sexes of these individuals is unknown.

Females lay white, spindle-shaped eggs singly. A caterpillar grows to 19 mm. Its head is green and its slender body is green with a narrow whitish stripe on the sides. Caterpillars feed on legumes.

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Family Pieridae

Phoebis philea ... Orange-Barred Sulphur

Phoebis philea arrived in Florida from the West Indies in 1928. Adults may have flown in on their own, or been blown in by a tropical storm. Or perhaps, the caterpillars arrived on nursery plants. No one knows for sure.

Phoebis pilea is the largest sulphur butterfly in Florida. A male is bright yellow with an orange patch across the top front of its forewings and an orange border along the outer margin of the top surface of its hind wings. Females are variable in color and range from white to yellow. Most have a reddish-orange border along the outer edge of each hind wing.

Both photographs shown here are of the same individual. The photograph on the left is back lit, while the one on the right is front lit. In the photograph on the left, you can see the red patch at the top of the forewing showing through the semi-transparent wing. This is proof that it is a male. Also, a female would have more dark markings on the underside of its wings.

Adult orange-barred sulphurs are swift flyers and rarely land unless to feed on nectar from red and yellow flowers, or in the case of females, to lay eggs. The butterfly in these photographs is an exception, as it was merely resting on a leaf of a plant in the filter marsh.

Caterpillars feed on native shrubs in the genus Cassia. To access additional photographs and information about orange-barred sulphur butterflies at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, click here.

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Family Pieridae

Pyrisitia lisa / Eurema lisa ... Little Yellow / Little Sulphur

This species is known by two scientific names and two common names.

These butterflies normally live in the Gulf States and to as far south as Costa Rica. They are most often spotted in open areas. The individual in this photograph was in the open portion of the scrub. It was resting on dead vegetation only inches from the sand's surface.

The individual shown here is a female. Females have a large pink spot at the top corner of the hindwing. Males lack this spot.

After mating, females typically lay their eggs singly on the midveins of host plants (Cassia spp.) The egg is elongate and pointed. Caterpillars are green with a yellow stripe. The time required for the egg to hatch and the individual to mature to the adult stage can take only two weeks. Adults feed on the nectar of flowers, primarily asters.

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Family Psychidae

Unknown ... Bagworm Moth

Family Psychidae (The Bagworm Family) is fairly small, with only 1,350 described species. Another common name for the group is "case moth" because each caterpillar constructs a small protective case in which to hide. The case is constructed from silk and materials it finds in the environment, including sand, soil, lichens, and plant materials. While in this stage of development, it crawls and carries its case along, extending its head and thorax from its case to devour plant leaves.

When the caterpillar pupates, it attaches its case to a bush or tree. These photographs show two pupa in the Smith Preserve.

Adult female bagworm moths have vestigial wings, legs and mouthparts. Therefore, they cannot fly, crawl, or eat. Like females, males have underdeveloped mouthparts and cannot eat. But adult males of most bagworm species are strong fliers with well-developed wings, covered with hairs and a few scales. They leave their cases and take flight, living only long enough to reproduce.

Since bagworm cases are made of silk and materials from the environment, bagworms are well camouflaged from predators, including birds and other insects.

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Family Pyralidae

Elasmopalpus lignosellus... Lesser Cornstalk Borer

In the early morning of December 7, 2016, this 1 cm long moth was disturbed while resting in underbrush. It was spotted as it flew to the top of a Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) leaf in the middle of the Smith Preserve.

These photographs were sent for identification to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University's Department of Entomology. On December 7, 2016, the species was identified by Aaron Hunt, a Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>.

The lesser cornstalk borer is a pest of several economically important crops, including peanuts, soybeans, corn, and grain sorghum that grow in sandy soil. In addition, host plants include grasses growing in the Smith Preserve: Cynodon dactylon (Bermudagrass) and Aristida stricta (Wiregrass).

Damage is caused by caterpillars tunneling into the basal region of stalks below ground.

Females lay most of their eggs below the soil surface adjacent to plants on which the caterpillars will feed. Caterpillars live in the soil and construct tunnels from soil and excrement they weave together with silk. The tunnels connect to the base of the host plant.

At rest, both the female and male moth have wings straight back along the body. Adult males, like the one shown in these photographs, are tan-colored with charcoal wing tips. Females are most often entirely charcoal-colored.

Adults are most active at night when temperature exceeds 27 ˚ C, relative humidity is high, and air movement is minimal. Adults live about 10 days. The complete life cycle is 30 to 60 days long.

The species is found throughout the western hemisphere, and is common in the southeastern United States.

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Family Saturniidae

Anisota virginiensis ... Pink-Striped Oakworm Moth

The common name of this species is very descriptive of its appearance. The caterpillar has prominent pink stripes. The body is also covered with smaller stripes of other colors and by many white dots. There are long, black, spine-covered extensions that arise from the dorsal portion of the 2nd thoracic segment. The head is orange-brown and the thorax and abdomen are covered with black spines.

In the Smith Preserve, more than a dozen of these caterpillars were observed on November 12, 2014 on a single branch of a Quercus laurifolia (laurel oak). Although larvae can reach lengths of 60 mm, these were only 35 mm and probably an early instar. Females lay their eggs in rafts of up to several hundred eggs in a single cluster. This cluster of caterpillars probably recently hatched from the same raft.

Three caterpillars from the cluster were kept in an aquarium to watch their progress. On November 19th, just 7 days after they were first found, the individual below was more than 55 mm long.

At left this 55 mm long caterpillar continues to gorge himself on laurel oak leaves.

Pink-striped oakworm moths are known to live in oak barrens and woodlands from Canada south to Florida. In Florida, there are 2-3 generations per year.

Male adult moths fly during the day, attracted to virgin females by the pheromones the females release into the air.

In addition to being food for other insects and vertebrates (birds and reptiles), the caterpillars are parasitized by fungus. One of the caterpillars observed on the oak branch with the others on November 12th had a white fuzzy coating. The morning after the caterpillars were collected for observation, that caterpillar fell from the branch in a weakened state. Note the white fuzzy coating caused by the entomopathogenic fungus.

Pupation of Anisota virginiensis takes place in soil. On November 24th, one of the caterpillars, collected on November 12th, went to the bottom of the aquarium and pupated in a container of soil. The pupa was removed a few days later so the following photographs could be taken.

On December 17, 2017, the female adult below emerged from its chrysalis and was released back onto the tree where it was found as a caterpillar. The moth was 3 cm long. Adults fly in the daytime and mate in the morning.

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Family Saturniidae

Antheraea polyphemus ... Polyphemus Moth

The flattened, seed-like object at left and below was found on the bottom of a leaf of Acer rubrum (Red Maple), growing along the bank of the filter pond on November 5, 2014. The object is the egg of a polyphemus moth.

When eggs hatch, caterpillars of the polyphemus moth are typically yellow. They will molt five times. In the last instar, they are bright green with silver spots on their sides. At this stage they can be 7.6 to 10.2 cm long.

At the end of this stage, they spin a cocoon of brown silk wrapped in leaves of the host plant. Host plants growing in the Smith Preserve include: Salix (Willow), Quercus (oak), Acer (Maple) and Citrus (orange, lemons, limes).

After time, the adult emerges from the cocoon. An adult moth has a large wingspan (15 cm), and is tan with large purplish eyespots on its two hind wings. It is these eye spots that give it the species name polyphemus. Polyphemus was the name of the cyclops in Greek mythology.

Female moths emit pheromones which males detect with their large plumose antennae. Adults mate, but because they have vestigial mouths, they cannot eat. As a result, they live less than a week.

Parasitic wasps, parasitic flies, and predatory squirrels are a problem for the caterpillars and pupa. Eyespots on the wings of adults startle would-be predators.

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Family Saturniidae

Automeris io ... Io Moth

The female Io moth lays her eggs in clusters of twenty or more. This photograph shows a cluster of 28 eggs found on the leaf of a willow growing at the berm of the filter marsh in the Smith Preserve. Note: Io eggs are white with black dimpled tops.

A tiny orange caterpillar will eventually hatch from each egg. The young caterpillar begins by eating its egg shell and then it devoirs vegetation, including leaves of maples, oaks, and willows. A caterpillar molts five times, and at each stage of its development, it is a slightly different color. The caterpillars are beautiful, but their spines are venomous. Although the caterpillars have spines, tiny wasps often parasitize them.

All moths in Family Saturniidae, including the Io, construct cocoons from silk and are referred to as giant silkmoths. After pupating inside the cocoon, an adult emerges with a fully-developed reproductive system.

After inflating its wing veins with fluid pumped from its body, and unfurling its wings, it can fly. An adult's wingspan is nearly 8 cm. Male adults are more brightly colored than females and have feather-like antennae they use to smell for females located up to a mile away. An adult moth has a white-centered eyespot, surrounded with blue and black on each of its hind wings. Since these eyespots look like large eyes, predators think twice before attacking. Adult Io moths are strictly nocturnal.

Io adults have vestigial mouthparts and do not consume any food. For more information and photographs of Io moths at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, click here.

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Family Saturniidae

Eacles imperialis ... Imperial Moth

This male imperial moth was photographed by Jim Bigelow at the Smith Preserve on September 27, 2013.

As shown, its wings are bright yellow with large pinkish-brown to purplish-brown patches on its wings, eye spots on the forewings and hindwings, a band along each of its hindwings, and scattered tiny brown spots on all wings. A female imperial moth is larger than a male with the top of her wings mostly pale yellow with pinkish-brown to purplish-brown patches that are smaller than those of a male. She has bands on both wings. Like the male, she has eye spots and tiny brown spots on her forewings and hindwings. The wingspan of imperial moths is 8 to 17.4 cm.

Once a female has mated, she typically lays her eggs at dusk on the top and bottom surfaces of the needles of pine or the leaves of oak or maple trees. Eggs hatch in about two weeks and the caterpillars feed on the host plant. Pupation takes place in underground burrows. Adults emerge from their cocoons before sunrise and mate after midnight the next day. Adult moths do not eat.

Eacles imperialis range from Mexico to Canada and from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic.

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Family Sphingidae

Enyo lugubris ... Mournful Sphinx Moth

On November 30, 2017, this well-camouflaged moth, resembling a dried leaf, was found by Ian Bartoszek (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Scientist) at the edge of the Smith Preserve on the gopher tortoise fence.

It was removed from the fence and placed in a terrarium. Photographs were taken by the webmaster and the images were sent for identification to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University's Department of Entomology. On November 30, 2017, the genus was identified by John and Jane Balaban, BugGuide Contributors. On December 2, 2017, the species was identified by Peter Homann, another BugGuide Contributor.

The moth's wingspan is ~ 6 cm. Web sources state that adults fly during the day and make whirring sounds as they fly. Adults probably feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers.

Larval food sources are likely plants in the grape family. Two members of this family found in the Smith Preserve are Cissus verticillata (Possum Grape) and Vitus rotundifolia (Muscadine Grape). Caterpillars pupate in shallow underground burrows.

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Family Sphingidae

Xylophanes tersa ... Tersa Sphinx

On December 27, 2017 at 12:00 noon, this moth, with a wingspan of ~7 cm, was resting on the wall of the parking garage level of the Eva Sugden Gomez Environmental Planning Center, adjacent to the Smith Preserve. It had likely emerged (eclosed) from a pupa in leaf litter in the preserve.

As seen in these photographs, the abdomen is pointed and covered with hairs. The upper side of the forewing is pale brown with lavender-gray at the base and dark brown lengthwise lines throughout. Not visible in this photograph, is the dark brown hindwing with a band of whitish wedge-shaped marks.

The species range is Massachusetts south to southern Florida; west to Nebraska, New Mexico, and southern Arizona; and south through Mexico, the West Indies, and Central America to Argentina. There can be several generations each year in Florida.

Larvae feed on a variety of plants including, but not limited to members of the flowering plant family Rubiaceae. Some plants in this family that live in the Smith Preserve are Spermacoce verticillata (Shrubby False Buttonweed), Psychotria nervosa (Shinyleaf Wild Coffee), Psychotria sulzneri (Shortleaf Wild Coffee/ Dull-Leaf Wild Coffee), and Diodia virginiana (Virginia Buttonweed/Poor Joe). Caterpillars can be green or light brown with an eyespot near the front of the head and small dots in line along the sides of the body. Cocoons are usually under leaf litter at the soil's surface.

Adults begin feeding at sunset on nectar and pollen of flowers.

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Family Tineidae

Dryadaula terpsichorella ... Hawaiian Dancing Moth

On April 21, 2014, this small, blue-eyed, cream-colored moth with some brown scales on the wings and some brown banding on the antennae was resting during the daytime on the bottom of a leaf of Quercus geminata (Sand Live Oak) in the Smith Preserve.

On November 25, 2015, it was identified from this photograph by Steve Nanz, Contributing Editor of <BugGuide.net>, hosted by Iowa State University Entomology Department.

The dancing moth is native to Polynesia, Samoa and Fiji, but it is now also found in Hawaii, Florida and California.

The common name originates from its dance-like gyrations when it alights. Adults are creamy white with some brown scales. Forewing tips are margined with a blackish line edged in white.

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Family Tineidae

Unknown Species ... Clothes/Fungus Moth

On January 24, 2017, this ~4 mm BL moth was collected from leaf litter beneath a Psychotria nervosa (Shinyleaf Wild Coffee) bush and a Quercus laurifolia (Laurel Oak) tree.

It was isolated from the litter with a Berlese funnel, and these photographs were created using photomicroscopy and sent for identification to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University's Department of Entomology.

On February 21, 2017, the family was identified by Kyhl Austin, a Contributing Editor to <BugGuide.net>. Kyhl stated, "Looks like Tineidae, probably unidentifiable beyond family."

According to <BugGuide.net>, in this family there are 54 genera and 190 species in our area and 320 genera and more than 3,000 known species worldwide.

Most members of the family are small or medium-sized. They hold their wings roof-like over the body when resting. Unlike most other lepidoptera caterpillars, the majority of Tineid caterpillars feed on fungi, lichens, and detritus.

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Unknown Family

Unknown Species ... Unknown Common Name

This caterpillar was found under the bark of a branch of dead Pinus elliottii densa (Southern Florida Slash Pine).

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Unknown Family

Unknown Species ... Unknown Common Name

This caterpillar was found by breaking open a pod of Crotalaria pallida var. obovata.( Smooth Rattlebox).

Inside the pod, were several fly maggots. The maggots may have been feeding on the caterpillar. A maggot can be seen near the posterior end of this caterpillar.

The second photograph shows the sclerotized head of another caterpillar, a hole at the base of the head, and several fly maggots nearby. The maggots may have been feeding on the internal organs of this caterpillar and emerged from the hole.


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Unknown Family

Unknown Species ... Unknown Common Name

On April 14, 2015, this 10.5 mm-long larva was living inside a yellow flower petal of Vigna luteola (Hairy Cowpea), growing along the northern boundary of the Smith Preserve. Living inside the same petal were a mite and a thrips.

The photographs below were submitted to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology for identification.

On November 20, 2015, the larva was identified as a lepidopteran larva by Natalie Hernandez, Contributing Editor to <BugGuide.net>, sponsored by Iowa State University Department of Entomology. Hernandez stated, "Looking at the ventral shot I see prolegs, when I zoom in I think there are crochets but its hard to see in this image. That head capsule also looks more like a Lep than a Coleop."

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© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer), unless otherwise credited above.

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