Atala Butterfly Eumaeus atala
Life Cycle of the Atala Butterfly
Eggs are laid on Coontie, the Atala Butterfly host plant.

Larvae, red caterpillars with yellow markings, hatch from the eggs and eat the host plant. They shed their skin several times while they're growing up. (You can look up "larval instar" if you want to get more technical than that.)

Chrysalis - The caterpillars eat, and grow, and then they hang from the bottom of a leaf on the Coontie, shed their skin one last time, and turn into a chrysalis.

Butterfly - Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar turns into the butterfly. When it's done, it crawls out and hangs upside-down to extend and dry its wings before it flies away.

Atala Butterfly lays eggs on Coontie
Atala Butterflies lay eggs on Coontie
Coontie (Zamia floridana or pumila):
These female Atala Butterflies are laying eggs on Coontie, their host plant. UP close, the white rounded eggs have tiny hairs on them.
The eggs hatch into these bright red and yellow caterpillars:
Coontie
Atala Eggs on Coontie
Atala larvae on Coontie
When the caterpillars have eaten and grown enough, they hang under the leaf, shed their skin a final time, and turn into a chrysalis. This one on the right is undergoing the change; you can see how different it looks from the bright red caterpillars.
On a very new chrysalis the yellow dots on the back of the caterpillar are still visible. Then as it ages, the chrysalis darkens to a more opaque soft brown that darkens more the older it gets. Finally, a day or so before the butterfly is ready to emerge, you can start to see the red abdomen through the bottom of the chrysalis.
Then, as it ages, the chrysalis darkens to a more opaque soft brown:
The little spiky brown splotches near the chrysalides are the shed skins of the larvae.
When they first crawl out of their chrysalis, their abdomen is swollen with fluid and their wings are squished and tiny. They hang upside-down and excrete fluid, and also pump fluid into their wings to expand them.
This is a good time to hold them; they can't fly away. Be sure to let them hang upside-down though, or their wings will dry wrong and they will be unable to fly. Also watch out for the goo they poo because it can stain your clothes.
Atala butterfly larvae (caterpillar)
Atala butterfly larvae making a chrysalis
Atala butterfly chrysalides
Atala butterfly chrysalides
Atala butterfly chrysalis
Atala butterfly chrysalis
Atala butterfly emerging from chrysalis
Atala butterfly emerging
Atala butterfly on finger
Atala butterfly emerging
emerged Atala butterfly expanding wings
emerged Atala butterfly expanding wings
Atala butterfly on chrysalis
All of these Atala Photographs were taken in Broward County, Florida.
If you want Atala Butterflies in your butterfly garden, you'll need at least a dozen Coontie plants to keep a colony alive; more is better. They tend to stay close to home, so they're a fun butterfly to garden for because you can continue to enjoy watching them in your garden after they become butterflies. Some other butterflies tend to emerge and fly off.
I've split my Atala Butterfly photographs into multiple pages to try to decrease the page length.

Click Atala Nectar Page to see pictures of Atala Butterflies nectaring, and other pictures that just would not fit here.

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