Naturalist Fact: White Peacock

White Peacock butterfly

White Peacock butterfly

The White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) is a tropical butterfly that can be spotted in southern Florida and southern Texas year-round and along the Georgia and South Carolina coast as a stray. However, we have been spotting several on Little St. Simons Island this fall.

This butterfly prefers open habitats like roadsides, gardens and fields. On Little St. Simons, we have been spotting them along Beach Road, near the gazebo, and in the inter-dune meadows. The adults will nectar on many of the flowers in fall bloom, and lay their eggs on Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) and water hyssop (Bacopa monieri).

White Peacock caterpillar

White Peacock caterpillar

When butterflies lay eggs in late summer or fall, sometimes the eggs will overwinter on the plant, and hatch in the spring with the new foliage growth. Since butterfly eggs usually only take 3-10 days to hatch, eggs laid here in October probably have time to hatch and feed before temperatures drop too low. Another adaptation for fall caterpillars is to form a chrysalis, but not emerge until spring.

The White Peacock has a wingspan of about two to three inches, and can be recognized by silvery white wings with an orange-brown border. Each forewing has a single round black spot, in addition to two black round spots on each hind wing.

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