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Atala Butterfly Life Cycle

Atala Butterfly Caterpillar

The larvae of the Atala Butterfly are bright reddish orange wuth two rows of
yellow spots down the back. Their mature length is only about 1 1/2 inch.
The host plant is the Coontie or Zamia.

Atala Butterfly Caterpillar  Atala Butterfly Caterpillar

Here are some close up shots.

Atala Butterfly Pupa .Atala Butterfly Pupa

4 days later, they became pupa. The brown material you see on the picture
above left is what was shed as the caterpillar became a pupa.

Atala Butterfly Pupa

About 2 weeks later, you can tell that the butterfly is almost ready to emerge.
The pupa starts to darken almost to black where the wings are developing and
red where the abdomen is.

Atala Butterfly   Atala Butterfly

The very next morning, the Atala Butterfly emerged!
At 10:15 AM, she started to come out of the cocoon. By 12:30 PM, the wings were completely dry and she was ready to fly.

Atala Butterfly

Here she is in all her beauty !

Atala Butterfly

It was very hard to get her to open her wings so I could Photograph them open.
I cheated a bit and held her wings open very softly !

 

 

The Atala butterfly is a very special, rare little butterfly. Also known as the Coontie Hairstreak,
these beauties have a wingspan of only 1 3/4". The Atala caterpillars host plant is the Florida native Coontie Cycad Zamia pumila.
The Florida Coontie plant was almost driven to extinction because of destruction of its native habitant
and over harvesting for the production of starch. Along with the Coontie, the Atala were beleived to have become extinct.
Thankfully, with the return of the Coontie because of increased use in landscaping, the Atala have also returned!
Atala butterflies lay their eggs on the tips of young Coontie plant leaves. The eggs
hatch in about 4 to 5 days.
The Atala caterpillars are bright reddish orange with 2 rows of 7
yellow spots down the back.
The bright colors are a warning for potential prey. Coontie plants
have cycasin which is highly toxic.
As the caterpillars feed, they store the cycasin in their
bodies. This toxicity stays with the Atala through its entire life cycle.
They reach a mature
length of 1 1/2" in about 18 days. Then, they are ready to become pupa.
For about 10 days, they
remain in the pupa. The day before the Atala emerges, the pupa becomes black
toward the top and
dark red or brown towards where the abdomen is.
The next morning the butterly emerges! It will
hang upside down for an hour or two till the wings have dried.
The adult butterfly stays close to
the host plant for its 10 day life as a butterly.
Various nectar plants are used by the Atala
Butterfly.
This article has an extensive list of nectar sources.

 


Atala Butterfly
Eumaeus atala
Family Lycaenidae
Hairstreaks Subfamily Theclinae
10/2009

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