Two weeks ago, my son and I visited the fabulous Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, Gainesville Campus! If you are a Lepidoptera lover, this is a place that I highly recommend that you visit! In the entomology section of the museum there is a Butterfly Rainforest; a laboratory; caterpillar rearing exhibits; a pupae room; display cases of butterflies, moths, and other insects; nearly a three-storied high display of butterflies and moths in cases and/or photographs of them; models of butterflies and moths; and videos about butterflies that are presented.
The Florida Museum of Natural History includes a Butterfly Rainforest within a section that is devoted mostly to Lepidoptera – butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and pupae. The Butterfly Rainforest is a tropically-styled habitat for butterflies and moths, and it includes many trees, plants, flowers, birds, fish, and turtles. In the Butterfly Rainforest, we observed many different species of tropical butterflies, photographs of some of which are included in this post.
To me, the most beautiful of the butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest were the Morpho butterflies. The large Morphos (Morpho peleides) in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat have eyespots on the undersides of their brown wings, and have a beautiful, irridescent blue color on the upper side of their wings. The striking, large Owl butterflies (Caligo memnon or Caligo idomeneus), also with beautiful eyespots, were also wonderful to view.
There were also several Paper Kite butterflies (Idea leuconoe) in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat. These butterflies may also be known as Rice Paper butterflies or Large Tree Nymph butterflies. They butterflies are large, with a wingspan of about 4″-5″, and have black and white stripes on their wings. They are slow and deliberate in their flight, and remind me of kites that are flying in the wind.
A couple of other butterflies that my son and I enjoyed observing in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat included the Brown Clipper (Parthenos sylvia brown) and Blue Clipper (Parthenos sylvia blue). This butterfly has two color forms – brown and blue – and is respectively native to the Phillipines and Malaysia. Both butterflies are beautiful to behold. They are fast fliers; and their stripes resemble those of tigers.
A very unique feature of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Lepidoptera and Entomology Section, is the Butterfly Wall. This wall is nearly three stories high, and contains photographs of butterflies and moths, as well as display cases that show them. It is extremely impressive! Following are photographs of the Butterfly Wall, as well as certain sections of it. Also to follow are pictures of the Pupae Room and Caterpillar Rearing Area. Some of the photos may also include my son.
Also included in the Museum were many display cases that presented butterflies, moths, and other insects. Following are photos of a few of the display cases.
Videos educating visitors about Lepidoptera were also available for viewing at the Museum. While my son and I were there, we watched a portion of a video about Monarch butterflies. It was great to be able to explain to my son how Monarchs migrate and roost.
All of the butterflies in the Butterfly Rainforest Habitat were a real treat to watch as they flew throughout the enclosure, with a few landing on their human observers. In all, we spent about two hours at the Florida Museum of Natural History, also enjoying the Titanoboa Exhibit. We had a really great time there, and wish we could have stayed longer!
This Spring and Summer of 2012, there are two butterflies that I saw flying around my neighborhood here in Georgia that I’ve never seen before. In May 2012, I saw a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), and in late August and early September 2012, there was a Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) that often visited the flowers in the yard.
In 12 years of living in Georgia, I have never before had the pleasure of observing these two species of butterflies here. As a girl, I had seen them flying about in Florida, and considered them somewhat more of tropical types of Lepidoptera, although they really are not true tropical butterflies. It seems, however, that they may sometimes prefer habitats that are more hot and/or moist (wet and/or humid).
The Zebra Swallowtail has wings that are long, resembling triangles, with tails that are swordlike. It’s colors include white to bluish-green with black bands and stripes. It also has blue and red spots on it’s wings; and the sizes and colors of the butterfly vary with the spring and summer seasons. The Zebra Swallowtail is commonly seen in Washington, DC and Virginia, though it’s range includes Ontario, Canada, the Lake States, Southern New England States, and along the Atlanta Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida (Pyle, p. 348).
The Zebra Longwing has wings that are narrow and long, colored in black and banded with yellow stripes. It also has red spots on the bases of it’s wings. The habitat of the Zebra Longwing includes thick woods, forest edges, and hammocks. It is the State butterfly of Florida, and ranges from South Carolina to Texas, south through Latin America and the West Indies, while also appearing west to Southern California and Colorado (Pyle, p. 541).
Both of these are beautiful butterflies, and it is has been a real treat to see them flying around here in Georgia this year! I have wondered whether or not observing them in Georgia this year is a sign of climate change and the butterflies possibly becoming more common in this area and/or extending their habitats into places in which they are more rare or unusual. It was so incredibly hot here this summer, I would suspect that the intense heat and global warming potentially influenced the ranges of these butterflies this year.
Pyle, Robert M. (1981). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf , Inc.
Zebra Longwing Butterfly. “Welcome to Florida.” September 16, 2012. http://eikaiwa-blog.blogspot.com/2010/10/zebra-longwing.html.
Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly. “Arkansas State Parks Blog: Stories and Information from Arkansas State Parks.” September 16, 2012. http://arkansasstateparks.wordpress.com/category/wildlife/butterflies/.