Atala Butterflies use Coontie as their host plant. The butterflies remain in their area, and need a dozen or more plants in your yard or butterfly garden to survive as a colony, unless your neighbor has enough to make up the difference.
Coontie plant
Those two Coontie plants are young and green and uneaten. They look great. If you're planting Coontie for butterflies, they won't look that way for long, so plant them behind some other pretty plant. Then you won't mind as much when these red and yellow caterpillars nibble on the leaves. These are Atala Butterfly Caterpillars.
Coontie plant
 Atala Butterflies have black wings with a few patches of blue scales (yes, butterfly wings are covered in tiny scales) and a bright red abdomen.
Atala larva, aka caterpillars, on Coontie
White dots on your Coonite might be butterfly eggs like these:
 ...and white dots on your Coontie plants might be something else. Let's look at the other creatures I've found on Coontie, like these scale bugs.
Atala Butterfly on my fingertip
White round Atala Butterfly eggs on a Coontie plant
The brown circle and white fuzz are scale. The long bug on the bottom right is a ladybug larva. When scale attacks a plant, ladybugs often lay eggs nearby so their young can eat the scale.
 I was concerned about disappearing caterpillars when I noticed this Cuban Knight Anole that seemed to be watching the last two caterpillars on the plant.
scale and a ladybug larva on a Coontie plant
Correlation does not equal causation, and I did not actually see the green lizard eat the caterpillars, but they were gone the next day and there wasn't a butterfly chrysalis in sight. The plump lizard looked quite content and well fed though.
Knight anole's have teeth, and they aren't afraid to use them. This smaller green lizard, a green anole, is a sweeter little creature.
Ladybug on the new growth of a Coontie plant
Green anoles just pinch a little when they bite, which is unlikely unless you're quick enough to grab one - also unlikely. The knight anole's are larger than green anoles, they have sharp little teeth, and they have yellow on their cheeks, while the green anoles do not.
Scale bug on a Coontie plant
Cuban Knight Anole apparently stalking red Atala caterpillars on a Coontie plant
Big green Cuban Knight Anole lizard on a Coontie plant
I usually see the butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of the most tender new Coontie leaves, but when all of the leaves are nibbled, they'll lay their eggs on the Coontie seed cones as well:
Atala Butterflies use Coontie as their Host Plant. They only lay eggs on Coontie. This Tersa Sphinx Moth just used it for a brief resting place:
This bug nymph was also looking for food on the Coontie plants:
Coontie (Zamia floridana, or Zamia pumila) has an interesting history.  It was harvested for food (don't try this at home, the root is poisonous without proper processing to remove a water soluble toxin, and besides, the butterflies need it), and so much of it was removed that the Atala was thought to be extinct when they made the endangered species list. 
Cute, small, harmless Green Anole Lizard on a Coontie plant
Coontie seed cone covered in red and yellow butterfly caterpillars
Tersa Sphinx Moth resting on a Coontie plant
Coontie seed cone
Bug nymph on a Coontie plant
Site Map:
Diving, Wading & Wetland Birds
Warblers & Little Birds
More Birds
Snakes, Lizards, and Slithery Critters
Squishy Bugs
Crunchy Bugs
More Creatures
Butterfly Nectar Plants
Butterfly & Moth Host Plants
Wetland plants
Lawn Weeds
Other Plants & Fungi
Shrub, Bush & Tree Sized Plants
Paper Folding: Origami Bird, Egg, and Nest
Paper Quilling: Snowflake Ornaments
Cut Paper Snowflakes
Butterfly Garden Basics
My Email, Image Use Information, Credits & Disclaimer
Index of everything that didn't fit on one of the other main pages
Privacy Policy