At Naples Botanical Garden, the butterfly count has been high this spring for most of the Florida butterflies. Most people (myself included) were affected by Hurricane Wilma about five years ago and lost a lot of their garden’s canopy. Now finally, we are seeing a big return of the zebra long wings (Florida’s state butterfly) and also the Julia, which are two of our Florida heliconian butterflies, since the tree canopies are beginning to return.
These two butterflies like to play in shade or dappled sun, like under the canopy trees provide. I have always suggested when planting Passion vines, their host plant, i.e. plants that female butterflies deposit their eggs on, that they should be planted in shade or partial shade for maximum efficiency.
For the other heliconian butterfly, gulf fritillary, it is just happy frolicking in the full sun. Many people have said the zebras are very abundant this year. In my observations they are plentiful. There are also large numbers of giant swallowtails around. (Citrus and wild lime are their favorite host plants).
Sulfurs, at this stage, seem to be a little light, but I anticipate they will surge soon.
Butterfly gardening in south Florida has become an addictive behavior involving large numbers of people young and old. While writing, this I have spotted zebras, gold rims, julias and gulf fritillaries, right outside my window!
We are fortunate that we have so many species and high numbers of butterflies in our gardens. We have been attracting butterflies for over twenty years. It only takes a few days to attract wonderful butterflies when planting the right plants.