Anaea troglodyta floridalis, Florida Leafwing
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Freshly emerged adult perched on pine needles on Big Pine Key (1999)
Final instar larva on Croton linnearis
Big Pine Key (2002)
Freshly emerged adult
Big Pine Key (2002)
Description: 34-38 mm. Bright red on the dorsal side, females with dark markings on the outer margins. Ventral side is mottled gray with a reddish coloration on the forewing. Wings are scalloped with a tip on the forewing and a tail on the hindwing. Summer form has less extreme forewing tip.
Habitat and Distribution: Only the pine rocklands of Big Pine Key and Southernmost Dade County.
Host Plant: Woolly Croton (Croton linearis)
Natural History: This is a spectacular butterfly that is now protected on the federal endangered species list. It was common on Big Pine Key as of the 1990's but declined in population and is now believed to be exterpated from the Keys. From 1998 through 2003 we made frequent trips to Big Pine Key and saw a total of only 6 individuals during that time including one larva (photographed above). They were once quite common in several pineland areas in urban Dade County but those populations seemingly have all vanished. In 1999, we placed a tray of fermenting banannas on the boarder of a pine habitat in Kendal and saw 6 adults come to the fruit within a few hours. These butterflies are tricky to get close to. They hide very well in the pines and palmettos blending brilliantly with their habitat and wait to fly until you are right on top of them. They will zip 20 to 30 yards away and land quickly again closing their wings and concealing their bright red coloration. The jagged limerock base of this habitat requires you to look down where you step causing you to easily loose sight of them. In many of the habitats where they have declined, the host plant grows with health and in abundance.