Before you can watch or identify butterflies, you
must find them. This is not as difficult as it may seem.
Butterflies occur throughout the state. They inhabit the natural
habitats Florida has to offer - from the dense tropical hardwood
hammocks of the Florida Keys to the dry sandhills of the Panhandle.
The best place to begin is in your own yard, then try a nearby
park, natural area or botanical garden. Chances are, these sites
have a fair number of butterflies. Closely watching common or
frequently encountered butterflies is a great way to practice. It
helps you fine-tune observational skills while quickly becoming
familiar with many local species.
Most butterflies are attracted to colorful flowers. They rely on
the sugar-rich nectar for food. Even small patches of blooming
plants can be a magnet for butterflies concentrating activity in a
Some butterflies rarely or never visit flowers. They feed on
other types of food. Species such as the question mark, hackberry,
malachite and the southern pearly-eye are attracted to rotting
fruit, animal dung, dead animal remains or tree sap.
Many butterflies gather at mud puddles or stream banks to drink
water and take in various nutrients like salts and minerals.
Butterflies are mobile. Forest trails, waterways, woodland edges
and power line cuts can be natural movement corridors. Adults may
use these flyways for local movements, long distance migration, to
seek food or to locate mates.
Larval Food (Host) Plants
Butterflies tend to be found near the plants on which their
larvae (caterpillars) feed. In fact, the best way to find many
species is to first track down patches of larval host plants. Some
butterfly watchers carry a field guide to help identify local