The family Nymphalidae is the largest butterfly family and includes about 6,000 species
which are further divided up into 12 subfamilies. The common name for the family
is the Brushfoots or Brushfooted Butterflies. This strange name is because the first
pair of legs are significantly reduced, sometimes to mere stubs, and look like little
brushes. Some of the most common and well known species are in this group such as
the Monarch, Red Admiral, Blue Morpho and Painted Lady. Some of the longest lived
butterflies are in this family with some species living over 10 months as adults.
The Brushfoots are distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity found in the
tropics. With this variety, there is also quite a difference in behavior, adult
food choices and habitat preference from species to species.
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Agraulis vanillae, larva on passionvine, Passiflora sp., Cypress Gardens, Berkeley
County, South Carolina, 2 August 2008 Ref
Agraulis vanillae belongs to the subfamily Heliconiinae. This species has a large
range and is found from South America north through Central America, Mexico and the
West Indies to the southern United States. It tolerates human encroachment and can
be found in various open habitats including pastures, open fields, second-growth
subtropical forest and edges, even city gardens.
The larval food source are various species of passionvine, Passiflora sp. Males
patrol for females who lay eggs on many parts of the host plant. Caterpillars feed
on most parts of the plant. Adults overwinter in the warmer areas.