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Provide for Wildlife- The Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly

Article by UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Urban Horticulture Agent Lorna Bravo

Did you know that our urban areas are rapidly increasing worldwide? 

Recognizing the urban home landscape as part of a more extensive natural system will help us make sound decisions in creating a Florida-Friendly yard. By creating your urban wildlife haven in your backyard, you provide a home for our local wildlife. Invite plants in your landscape that provide food, water, and shelter to attract Florida’s diverse wildlife.

Did you know that South Florida is one of only two places in the United States where you’re likely to find the Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly?
The Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly

The Ruddy Daggerwing are members of Nymphalidae, the brush-foot family. This orange butterfly embraces wasps and moths!  This beautiful medium-sized bright orange hue butterfly with a wingspan of 2 ¾ to 3 ¾ inches has three thin straight black lines on each elongated wing.  The most distinguishing physical feature is the long, narrow tails on each of the hind wings that give the daggerwing its name.  Males will perch as high as 30 feet in the canopy, and females tend to remain hidden in the canopy for their part. The undersides of both genders resemble a dead leaf. The wing base and body are white. Males may sip mud to get minerals or salts through nectar plants such as bloodberry (Rivina humilis), climbing hempvine (Mikania scandens), and giant milkweed (Calotropis gigantea).

 

Ruddy Daggerwing Life Cycle

Ruddy Daggerwing Life Cycle Picture Credit: Amy Rielly

What is the secret to their visit?

The Ruddy prefers to lay eggs singly on leaves of fig trees. Fig trees are tropical plants with numerous species around the world. There are just two species native to the United States: the Florida strangler fig (Ficus aurea) and the shortleaf fig, also called giant bearded fig or wild banyan tree (Ficus citrifolia). Both trees serve as hosts for the Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly. Wild Banyans can reach 70ft in South Florida and hosts Daggerwing caterpillars and other insects such as the Edwards’ wasp moth and the Fig sphinx moth.

Pollination happens by a wasp so tiny that it does not have a common name, only a scientific one!

That’s the Pegoscapus tonduzi wasp which bores itself inside the shortleaf fig to utilize its cluster of seeds. The inflorescence (flower head) is found inside a bulbous stem that animals devour as a ripe pinkish, purple fig. The colorful Daggerwing butterfly is also the product of native figs.

The Ruddy Daggerwing Full Life Cycle

Watch this fascinating video of the complete life cycle of the Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly created by UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Master Gardener Volunteer Amy Rielly. Understand what the eggs look like, the caterpillars, and the adult butterfly stage to be able to identify them in your landscape. The video has extra footage of its signature colors as it grows.

Do you want to invite this beauty to your yard? Provide for Wildlife

Learn about our Florida-Friendly Landscaping program and its nine principles. Invite native host plants in your yard. If you plant them, they will come. Plant nectar sources. Select plants with seeds, fruit, flowers, or berries. Contact our Broward Extension office for a list of plants you can invite in your yard to support wildlife and consider certifying your yard as a Florida-Friendly Landscape. And remember, our urban yards are the first defense line preserving Florida’s fragile environment—interested in having your yard certified as a Florida-Friendly Landscape?

Florida Friendly Landscaping in South Florida.

The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program operates under the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology (CLCE). The Florida Friendly Landscaping program is an educational outreach program. The program informs homeowners and professionals how they can be more environmentally friendly with their landscape care practices. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program’s mission is to educate Floridians about science-based, environmentally friendly landscaping practices. It encourages them to conserve and protect our water resources by applying its nine principles. Recognizing the home landscape as part of a more extensive natural system will help us make sound decisions in creating Florida-Friendly yards. It helps protect Florida’s natural environment for future generations.

Contact Us

Contact UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program.

Email: Lorna Bravo lbravo1@ufl.edu or Anthony Gross @anthony.gross@ufl.edu

Resources

You can read more about Florida’s Ficus citrifolia, Shortleaf Fig here:

You can read more about Florida’s Ficus aurea, Strangler Fig here:

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