Know your islands
The anglewings, brush-footed butterflies or Nymphalidae is a family of about 5,000 species of butterflies.
These are typically large butterflies, such as the emperor, admirals, and fritillaries which have very colourful wings.
However, the underwings are dull and often look like dead leaves, which allow the butterfly to disappear or camouflage into its surroundings.
The front two legs are small, so effectively these butterflies are four-legged.
The caterpillars are hairy or spiky and the chrysalids have shiny spots.
A few of the butterflies in this family call Cayman home, these include the Cuban Red, Mexican Fritillary, and the Mangrove Buckeye.
The Cuban Red
The Cuban Red is a bright red butterfly that seems to disappear as it sits completely still with its wings folded.
This fast flying butterfly has become more common around Grand Cayman and is hard to miss as it flies by. It prefers wooded areas, but it may also be found in your garden.
No need to worry about it depositing eggs in your garden; its caterpillars prefer meals of Rosemary.
The Mexican Fritillary
The Mexican Fritillary has the sharply angled wing margins and very similar forewing and underside patterns.
The basal half of the hindwing upperside is clear orange, with the typical black fritillary markings restricted to a band around the margin.
This South and Central American species ranges north through Mexico into southern Texas and remarkably as far north as southern Manitoba.
The larva is bright red with dorsal and lateral black-edged silver lines and six rows of black spines.
The butterflies prefer to live in open areas such as fields, forest edges and near open streams. Adult butterflies eat flower nectar, such as passion flowers.
Adults fly swiftly above low vegetation during the day light hours in search of food. Females lay one egg at a time on host plants.
The Mangrove Buckeye
The Mangrove Buckeye has a brown upperside and the forewing has a narrow orange band which rings the large eyespot.
The Underside of the hindwing is brown, usually without bands or eyespots.
The caterpillars eat leaves of mangrove trees, and these beautiful butterflies may be seen in tidal flats and visiting their favorite black mangroves.
The range of the Mangrove Buckeye extends from the Atlantic coast of Mexico north to South Texas, the West Indies and extreme southern Florida.
Protect Cayman trees and encourage Cayman Wildlife! For more information, to share your knowledge or if you would like to get involved with the many activities in the National Trust’s Know Your Islands Program, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky or contact [email protected] or 949-0121.
Last week’s answer: Cayman’s 5 endemic sub-species of butterflies (they are found nowhere else in the world) include the Cayman Swallowtail (our largest butterfly), Cayman Velvety Brown Leaf-Butterfly, Cayman Zoe Julia, Cayman Lucas Blue, and the Cayman Pygmy Blue (our smallest butterfly).
Trivia question: What is the name of the bat that was first seen on Grand Cayman in 1998? Look for the answer in next week’s feature!
The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust. The Trust can be contacted at 949-0121 or via email at [email protected]