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Little Yellow
Little Yellow by Jaret C. Daniels

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 single area.


Other Attractants

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.


Moist Soil

Many butterflies gather at mud puddles or stream banks to drink water and take in various nutrients like salts and minerals.


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 plants.



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.