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A spectacular moment... Ruddy Daggerwing sits still on light colored palm!

CLICK on image to see this one ON BLACK!

 

Yes, it has daggers at the ends of the wings! This one is a bit tattered and torn but still flying and flitting. Look at the rich dark brown lines, straight and curvaceous, across the orange wings. And remember that these lines are showing through to the leaf-like underside of the wing because of the strong morning light! I love the gray-white underbody so similar in tone to the palm leaves! I was shaking when I first saw this image on my computer screen! A spectacular moment captured.

 

The Ruddy Daggerwing flies in Florida for most of the year but is most commonly seen from May through July. It is in the brush-footed family and its closest relatives are the Admirals. Although in flight it might be mistaken for a Julia, the Ruddy Daggerwing is easily identifiable: its wingspread is about three inches, the tip of its forewing is elongated, the hindwing has long dagger-like tails, its topside is bright orange with three thin black lines, and its underside is mottled brown and black.

 

When perched with wings closed, it closely resembles a dead leaf. It inhabits tropical lowland forests and edges and hardwood hammocks. Its larval (caterpillar) host plant is Strangler Fig (F. carica) and wild Banyan tree (F. citrifolia). Although the caterpillars feed almost exclusively on fig leaves, adult butterflies are more generalist feeders, nectaring at milkweed, Climbing Hempweed, and Cabbage Palm and feeding on rotting figs and other fruits.

 

When it’s time for mating, male Ruddy Daggerwings sit up in 15-30 feet high sunlit trees and watch for passing females. During this time, males are territorial, flying down to investigate anything that is bright orange. After mating, females search for suitable Strangler Figs on which to lay their eggs.

 

Ruddy Daggerwing, Marpesia petreus

Brazilian-pepper tree, Christmasberry tree, Florida Holly

Arch Creek Park, North Miami, FL

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Taken on March 11, 2012