Eggs are laid on Coontie
, the Atala
Butterfly host plant
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
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.
These female Atala Butterflies are laying eggs on
. UP close, the white
rounded eggs have tiny hairs on them.
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.
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.
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
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.