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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Illinois

Atala (Eumaeus atala)
JPG -- species photo

Atala (Eumaeus atala [Poey])

Wing span: 1 1/2 - 2 inches (3.8 - 5.1 cm).

Identification: Abdomen red-orange. Upperside of male wings soft black with iridescent green overlay and markings; female has blue iridescence at basal areas. Underside dull black, hindwing with large red-orange spot and 3 rows of irregular iridescent gold spots.

Life history: Eggs are laid in groups on upperside of leaf tips. Caterpillars feed in groups out in the open.

Flight: Many flights throughout the year, but most common in early summer.

Caterpillar hosts: Coontie (Zamia pumila), a shrubby, fernlike native cycad of Florida and the Bahamas; several other introduced plants of the family Cycadaceae.

Adult food: Nectar from flowers including lantana, periwinkle, shepherd's needle, and wild coffee.

Habitat: Subtropical shady hammocks and neighboring open areas; gardens with ornamental cycads.

Range: Southeastern Florida and the Keys, the Bahamas, and Cuba.

Conservation: Eumaeus atala florida is ranked endangered by the State of Florida; may recolonize from the Bahamas.

Subspecies florida has The Nature Conservancy rank of T3 - Very rare or local throughout its range or found locally in a restricted range (21 to 100 occurrences). (Threatened throughout its range).

Management needs: Prevent destruction of habitats with Coontie. Control of caterpillars on ornamental cycads is sometimes necessary. Reintroduce Coontie to the Florida Keys.


New, T. R., editor. 1993. Conservation biology of Lycaenidae (Butterflies). 
    Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 8. IUCN, The 
    World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.

Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the  Great Plains. Johns 
    Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates.

Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern  butterflies. Peterson
    field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co.,  Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford  University Press, 
    Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
Sedman, Y. and Hess, D.F.  1985.  The Butterflies of West Central Illionois.
     Series in the Biological Sciences No. 11.  Western Illinois Univ., Macomb, 
     IL.  118 pp.
Atala (Eumaeus atala)
distribution map
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