Butterflies are free in Cayman

The hairstreaks, blues, or Lycaenidae is a family of about 5,000 species of butterflies.

The Lycaenidae are the second-largest family of butterflies, with about 6000 species worldwide, the family is known as the Gossamer-Winged butterflies because their wings, like the fabric, generally appear delicate and shimmery. Their wings are covered both by pigmented scales and by light-refracting scales. They comprise about 40 per cent of all known butterfly species (Venktesha, 2005).

Subfamilies include the blues Polyommatinae, the coppers Lycaeninae, the hairstreaks Theclinae and the harvesters Miletinae. Adults are small, usually under 5cm and brightly coloured, sometimes with a metallic gloss. The male’s forelegs are reduced in size and lack claws.

The Cuban Red

Anaea cubana

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

Euptoieta hegesia

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

Junonia evarete

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.

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