Wild South Florida — Great Southern White Butterfly
 
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Great Southern White Butterfly
Southern White Butterfly
Great Southern white butterfly, photographed at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart, April 2015.
Southern White Butterfly
 

This guy, the great southern white butterfly, could be coming to a wedding near you. The great southern, known to the scientific community as Ascia monsute, is one of the most commonly used butterflies for releases at weddings. Can't say that we've seen tha first hand, but if it's on the internet, it must be true.

It does make a certain sense if you think about it. The great southern looks white as it flutters about (less so when perched on a leaf) and it is among the more common butterflies in Florida.

Perched on a leaf with its wings fold up, however, the great white reminds us of the inside of an oyster shell, with its subtle colors.

It's a relatively large butterfly, with a wingspan that can exceed three inches. Males and females are the same size; males are mostly white with a black edge along the apex of the forewing; in the dry season, females are similar. In the wet season, they become darker. One easy to spot difference between the sexes: males have torquoise clubs atop their attenna, easily seen in the photograph at the left.

The southeastern United States is the northern most point of the range of this butterfly. Great southern whites can be found along the south Atlantic and Gulf coasts into Mexico, through the Caribbean, Central America and into South America.

It's been known to stray occasionally as far north as Maryland and as far west as Colorado.

 
 
Southern White Butterfly
 

Plants in the mustard family, including cabbage and virginia pepper, serve as host plants for great southern caterpillars. Females will lay as many as 20 eggs on the leaves of the host.

Adults find the nectar of verbena and lantana and a few other flowers to be quite tasty.

In Florida, great southern whites are in flight, or active, throughout the year. Favored habitats include salt marshes, coastal dunes, open fields and gardens.

Great southern whites are members of the Pieridae, a family of butterflies with 1,100 species found in tropical places around the globe.

 
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Photographs by David Sedore
     
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