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Provide for Wildlife- The Queen Butterfly

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

Our urban Yards are the first line of defense to protect local wildlife.

Recognizing the urban home landscape as part of a more extensive natural system will help us make sound decisions in creating a Florida-Friendly landscape. 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 the Queen butterfly resembles its close relative, the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)?
The Queen Butterfly

The queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) is a North and South American butterfly in the family Nymphalidae. The beautiful Queen butterfly is a relatively large species, 3.1 to 3.3 inches long, with a darker coloring than its cousins, the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and Soldier. Its scientific name is Danaus gilippus. Hues on adult butterflies are orange-brown or mahogany with black and white wing borders.  Note that males carry a distinct black androconial pheromone patch ( black dots) to attract females visible near their abdomen. Females do not have the two black dots on their hind wings. Locally common throughout the year in central and south Florida, it annually colonizes northern portions of the state where abundance often varies considerably from year to year.

The Queen Butterfly-Danaus gilippus- Male & Female Examples Credit: MGV Amy Rielly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Queen Caterpillar

Queen caterpillars have yellow, white, and black stripes in each segment of their long bodies. Although similar to Monarch caterpillars, Queens have three pairs of black feelers sprouted along their body, unlike Monarchs, who have only two.

The Queen Caterpillar & Egg-Danaus gilippus- Credit: MGV Amy Rielly

 

What is the secret to their visit?

The Queen butterfly larvae feed exclusively on milkweed plants (Asclepias species) and sequester toxic chemicals that render them to deter predators. 

 

Did you know that they only lay one egg at a time on host plants?

 Among the host plants for Queens in Florida’s wildlife areas is White Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias perennis, a short-lived perennial found in the west, central, and north Florida. The pink-flowered Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, grows within swamps, wet hammocks, and prairies, along with White Twinevine, Funastrum clausum. Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata, is found throughout Florida’s central pinelands, as is Pineland Milkweed, Asclepias humistrata. Additionally, Few flower Milkweed, Asclepias lanceolata, likens wet to sandy soils. Rarely Queens host on Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa. Source: Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) 

Plant Native Milkweed in your yard!

Florida has 21 native species of milkweed, but to date, only a very small number of the 21 milkweeds native to Florida are available in nurseries or sold from seed. Some of the species available in nurseries: butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata and A. perennis)  and the non-native species Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, and giant milkweed (Calotropis gigantea). The Xerces Society is working with other nonprofits and native plant growers to increase the supply of native milkweed available to gardeners and ecological restoration specialists.

Tropical Milkweed-Asclepias curassavica

Tropical Milkweed is linked to Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), a protozoan parasite slowing butterfly capabilities. University of Florida Butterfly experts Dr. Jaret Daniels believe that the spread of the non-native tropical Milkweed may be causing monarch populations to persist longer than they naturally would. Making them more vulnerable to OE and thus presenting a risk to other monarch populations. So for best results, select native plants for your yard! 

The Queen Butterfly Full Life Cycle

Watch this fascinating video of the complete life cycle of the Queen 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 full life cycle and signature colors as it grows.

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

Learn about our Florida-Friendly Landscaping program and its nine principles. As urban areas are rapidly increasing worldwide, our urban yards are the first defense line preserving Florida’s fragile environment. Invite native milkweeds 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. Join us in Broward County Extension on Nov 6th, 2021 during our Art in The garden Event. We will have native milkweeds available for South Florida residents. https://2021-art-in-the-garden.eventbrite.com/

Interested to have your yard recognized 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 informing 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 and encourage 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 a Florida-Friendly yard and help protect Florida’s natural environment for future generations.
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 The Queen butterfly and native milkweeds here:

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