Read about the White Peacock Butterfly

White peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae family Nymphalidae — brush-footed butterfly, order Lepidoptera) is a butterfly that lives in the North and Central America, specifically Argentina, and is unique for its male territorial behavior.

White peacock butterfly species summary

Scientific NameAnartia jatrophae
Family NameNymphalidae
KingdomAnimalia
GenusAnartia
HabitatOpen, moist areas near water
RangeCaribbean, Argentina, Mexico, Florida, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Carolina, Kansas
Host PlantsWater hyssop, lemon bacopa, southern frogfruit, beggarticks
Butterfly DescriptionWhite wing base with black spots and eyespot resembling a peacock’s eyespot
Caterpillar DescriptionBlack with black spines and white spots

Butterfly Physical Description

White Peacock Butterfly
White Peacock Butterfly

White peacocks are medium-sized butterflies with 2 inches to 2.76 inches (5.1 cm to 7 cm) wing spans. These brush-footed butterflies’ main color is white, as their name suggests.

The forewings have one black spot. The hindwings have two black spots that resemble a peacock’s eyespot. Both wings have two rows of brown to orange crescents decorating the margins.

During winter, White peacocks are larger and darker, paler and smaller during summer.

Caterpillar Physical Description

White peacock larvae are black with black spines and white spots. The lateral and dorsal bases are orange. Mature caterpillars can reach 1.65 inches (4.2 cm) in length.

Distribution

The White peacock butterflies are residents in the following locations:

  • Caribbean (West Indies)
  • Argentina
  • Mexico
  • Texas
  • Florida (native pollinator)
  • Wisconsin
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts

There have also been rare sightings of this species in Nebraska, North Carolina, Kansas, and Missouri.

Habitat

Anartia jatrophae prefers open, moist areas near water and are commonly found around:

  • Shallow ditches
  • Roadsides
  • Fields
  • Edges of streams, marshals, canals, and ponds
  • Weedy fields
  • Parks
  • Gardens

Host Plants

The host plants for White peacock butterflies are:

  • Water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri)
  • Tropical waterhyssop (Bacopa innominata)
  • Lemon bacopa (Bacopa caroliniensis)
  • Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis)
  • Southern frogfruit (Lippia stoechadifolia)
  • Carolina false vervain (Verbena carnea)
  • Lanceleaf fogfruit (Phyla lanceolata)
  • Turkey-tangle frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora)
  • Beggarticks (Bidens alba)

Diet

White peacock butterfly caterpillar’s primary food sources are lippia, water hyssop (Bacopa), and ruellia.

Adult butterflies are pollinators whose food source is shepherd’s needle (Bidens pilosa), composites, and other Asteraceae family flowers.

Behavior

The life cycle of the White peacock butterfly starts with the unique behavior of males patrolling and perching in an area that contains larval host plants. The male White peacocks do this to protect the area from other adult males and other insects. The protected area is about 49 feet (15 meters) in diameter.

Once they find the female and mate, the female will lay eggs. The eggs are laid singly under the leaves of the host plants or near them. The eggs are green and take 3 to 10 days to hatch. After hatching, the caterpillars will feed on the host plant for about 6 to 20 days.

The caterpillar then turns into a pale green chrysalis (pupa) and hangs upside down until it emerges as an adult butterfly. This process takes 7 to 14 days.

The whole process from egg to adult butterfly takes about a month. The lifespan of White peacocks is about 4 months.

The White peacock butterfly appears year-round, especially in south Texas and Florida.

Predators

White peacocks have a fast, erratic flight, but they often fly low to the ground and will land on leaves and branches when resting. This makes them easy prey for birds, snakes, lizards, and rodents. The caterpillars and chrysalis are also prey to insects, mammals, and birds.

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