In Part One of this series read about the life stages of the butterfly, what butterflies are common to the Tampa, Florida area and some of the plants they like to eat. Part Two of this series talks about the  location for your butterfly garden and foods they need.

What are the best times of the year to see Butterflies?

Spring to Fall are the most active months for Butterflies. (Butterflies are around in November to February, but in reduced numbers).

Peak seasons are:

  • Early Spring (March)
  • Early Summer (mid April to June)
  • Best time: Fall (late August to mid-October)

There are more than 765 species of butterflies in the United States and Canada. Florida boasts over 180 butterfly species with about 40 are considered either unique to Florida. This diverse butterfly fauna is the highest of any state east of the Mississippi River and helps make Florida a premier location for butterfly gardeners. There are over 15,000 butterfly species worldwide.

What butterflies are common in Florida, (and plants they prefer)?

Gulf fritillary (likes passion vine)
Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Gulf Fritillary
Buckeye Butterfly with larvae and caterpillar
Buckeye Butterfly with larvae and caterpillar
Buckeye Butterfly
Buckeye (likes snapdragons)
Black Swallowtail Butterflies like fennel, parsley, dill and rue
Black Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Monarch butterflies like milkweed
Monarch Caterpillar
Clouded Sulfur Butterfly (likes Cassia)
Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly
Clouded Sulfur Butterfly
Zebra Longwing Butterfly (likes Lantana)
Zebra Longwing Caterpillar
Zebra Longwing Butterfly


Butterflies migrate south in the winter by the millions, such as:

  • Clouded and Cloudless Sulphur
  • Common Buckeye
  • Monarch (In the Fall, migrate south from Canada to central Mexico)
  • Long-tail Skipper
  • Gulf Frittillary

Differences between butterflies and moths?

Day-flying Night-flying
Clubbed antennae Fuzzy or furry looking antennae
Colorful wings (made of scales) without scales color of wings would be black or brown Wings not as colorful as butterflies, more dull and neutral brown colors
Wings together at rest Wings open at rest, in general

More interesting facts about butterflies

  • Cold-blooded
  • Taste with their feet
  • Do not have lungs, but a row of breathing holes on both sides of the body

What is the Life Cycle of the Butterfly?

Metamorphosis: The 4 Stages of Life

 One generation or “brood” takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete. Some butterflies have 6-7 broods a year and some have 3-4 a year. Some only once per year.

Egg (host plants needed for egg-laying)

Butterflies lay their eggs mostly on the underside of leaves of living plants; sometimes on the tops of leaves, on the flowers, leaf buds or twigs. Eggs hatch in 3-5 days up to 2 weeks.

Larvae / Caterpillar (needs host plant to eat)

Caterpillars eat the edges of the leaves. Caterpillars don’t like the sun and will often be on the underside of leaves. Some feed at night. Caterpillar may travel far to select the shrub to weave and attach its silk cocoon called the chrysalis. The caterpillar molts up to 5 times, shedding its cuticle or covering and growing a new skin.

Pupa / Chrysalis

The pupa can take 10 days to several weeks, months or years to develop depending on favorable or unfavorable conditions. Some hang upside down in a J shape in the chrysalis. Others are upright with several attaching filaments

Some butterflies like the Monarch can “over-winter called diapause or suspended development in the Pupal Stage for 8 months!

Adult (nectar plants for moisture, drinking / pollen for protein, energy)

Within a few hours of breaking out of the chrysalis, the butterfly wings have hardened and it can fly. The adult female lives a few days to a few weeks drinking nectar from flowers, looking for a suitable mate and host plant to lay the eggs on. The wings get tattered from injuries / encounters with frogs, lizards and birds