Friday, February 17, 2012

The Pink-spot Sulfur Butterfly

While looking through the collections at the Maguire Center, Andrew Warren found that some old specimens of what had been thought to be Aphrissa statira,  were actually Aphrissa neleis, the Pink-Spot Sulfur.  Since then, A.neleis has been seen around Homestead, Miami and Coconut Creek in Broward County.

Frank Model sent in a photo of a mating pair seen in the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on December 4th, which is a small garden surrounded by intense urban development.  On December 10th, I was visiting the gardens and saw several sulfur butterflies, some which looked like Orange Barred Sulfurs or perhaps Cloudless Sulfurs, but it was hard to tell.  I found some Sulfur butterfly eggs on a tree cassia.

The host plant of A. statira is coin vine, which is a coastal plant, although some A. statira are found inland near Homestead and certain places in South Florida.  I saved the eggs and when they hatched they turned out to be the right genus to be the Pink-spot Sulfur.  I thought there was a chance they could be A. neleis since a mating pair had been seen at the gardens the week before.  However, when the adults emerged they turned out to be A. statira!

These photos are of the A. statira butterflies that hatched from those eggs.
The Pink-spot Sulfur's host plant remains a mystery.  It's thought that it is using an exotic tropical tree called Cuban Lysiloma which is sometimes planted in landscapes.  One of them is planted in the Miami Beach Botanical garden.  Tree cassias are too cold sensitive to be planted further north, and it's unlikely to be using senna (the smaller cassia), as it is common in more northern places than the butterfly is found.

I will be speaking on the Pink-spot Sulfur at the Miami Blue Chapter quarterly meeting on May 6th, 2012 at Simpson Park in Miami.  The Program will begin at 1pm.

Simpson Park:
55 Southwest 17th Road  Miami, FL 33129-1501
(305) 856-2548

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