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Butterflies of Quinta Mazatlan

South Texas is a magnet for butterflies due to its year-round good weather, proximity to Mexico and an increase in butterfly habitat. The "Top 10" mostly likely to be seen butterflies at Quinta Mazatlan are listed below and a checklist for the Butterflies of Quinta Mazatlan can be downloaded here: QM butterfly checklist


Scientific Name: Danaus Plexippus

What’s special about this butterfly? All hail the king! The Monarch Butterfly is easily the most recognizable butterfly in the world. In fact, Texas is one of five states to name itthe state insect. The Monarch is a member of the Milkweed family and is known for its beauty and lengthy annual migration to Central Mexico. Common throughout the United States, including Hawaii, Canada and South America, this adventurous insect can travel over 2,500 miles each year. In fact, studies show that the length of time it takes to travel this distance far exceeds the normal life span of the Monarch. This unique butterfly is especially noted for its inherited navigational skills almost like a “built-in GPS”. The Monarch instinctively is born with a sense of direction on how to get to their next destination. Amazing!

Features: Monarchs have large scaly wings that are decorated in orange, black and white. Unlike the Viceroy, Queen, and Soldier butterfly, the Monarch is larger and richer in color. Both the body and outer wing margins are black and spotted with white dots. The veins on the hind and forewing are also black.

Favorite food source: Adult butterflies feed on nectar. Favorite nectar plants at Quinta Mazatlan are Mexican Milkweed, Crucita, and Wild Olive. Larval food plant is Milkweeds.

Habitat: Monarchs can be found just about anywhere: roadsides, residential areas, parks, wetlands or urban gardens like those at Quinta Mazatlan. Monarchs seek nectar giving plants and Milkweeds to lay their eggs and will visit any area that has this important food supply available. Create a Monarch Habitat today!

Large Orange Sulphur

Scientific Name: Phoebis agarithe

What’s special about this butterfly?A a sun-loving butterfly typically found basking and avidly feeding on nectar filled blossoms. This species is abundant throughout the southern regions of the U.S., particularly South Texas and Florida, and widely distributed in many parts of Mexico and South America. Never solitary, one will enjoy the sight of these colorful butterflies in large numbers.

Features: Similar only in size to its counterpart, the Cloudless Sulphur, the Large Orange Sulphur can be distinguished by its bright orange pigmentation (found on male butterflies) and a single brown line located on the each forewing. Female Orange Sulphurs are paler in color and some may even appear white.

Favorite food source: Nectar is the main food source for all adult butterflies. Sulphurs typically swarm any nectar rich shrub like Blue Mistflower or White Plumbago. Caterpillars feed on Texas Ebony and Wild Tamarind.

Habitat: In the RGV, we can find this butterfly year round. You’ll see them just about anywhere there’s a food supply, and so it’s very common to see them in your garden, along roadsides, and around businesses with native landscaping.


Scientific Name: Danaus gilippus

What’s special about this butterfly?A communal butterfly that can be seen year round visiting any garden or open space throughout South Texas, Florida, and southwestern United States. Although spotted in the RGV all year long, the number of Queens increases during the month of October. At the peak of this migration period, this species easily outnumbers other members of the Brush-foot family, like the Monarch.

Features: This butterfly sports a rich chestnut brown color on the upper side of its wings. Wings are bordered in black and decorated with a few scattered spots of white. To distinguish this butterfly from other mimics (the Monarch, Soldier, and Viceroy) Queens have a few distinct white spots on the tips of each forewing.

Favorite food source: Adult butterflies eagerly sip nectar from natives such as Butterfly Heliotrope, Gregg’s Mistflower, Texas Frogfruit, and Milkweeds. Caterpillar larva feed on Milkweed and Milkweed vines to obtain cardiac glycosides (a chemical toxin found in Milkweeds) in order to deter birds and other predators from eating them.

Habitat: Prefers sunny areas like pastures, roadsides, open gardens, and desert-like areas.

Giant Swallowtail

Scientific Name: Papilio cresphontes

What’s special about this butterfly? The largest butterfly species in North America, the Giant Swallowtail is a common garden visitor and a favorite of many butterfly watchers. The species can be found in several areas around the U.S. including Texas and Florida and even as far northeast as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Features: The butterfly is easily recognized by its large black body, bright yellow bands and “tuxedo tails” marked with round yellow centers. The underside of the butterfly’s body is mainly yellow, but when in flight or closed one can view a few patches of silver and rusty brown markings on the hindwing.

Favorite food source: Caterpillars (often referred to as “Orange Dog”) rely on the young leaves of the citrus family such the Texas Grapefruit and Sierra Madre Torchwood. As expected, Swallowtail larvae are considered a pest to citrus growers. After an amazing transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, the Giant Swallowtail emerges from its chrysalis and takes a slow and graceful fight towards nectar filled plants like Bougainvilla and Texas Lantana.

Habitat: Frequents open sunny areas around homes, schools, parks, and roadsides. Can be seen flying around on hot summer days, even in the RGV heat.

Zebra Heliconian

Scientific Name: Heliconius charithonia

What’s special about this butterfly? The Zebra Heliconian is a popular tropical butterfly that lives year round at Quinta Mazatlan. This species is as exotic looking as it name sounds and is always a treat for observers. On the trails, one can view this butterfly flying slowing within the Thornforest and stopping occasionally to sip nectar at flowers.

Features: This species sports black wings marked with cream to yellow stripes! Wings are not your typical butterfly shape, but are long and narrow and extend outward in an oval-like shape. Small red spots are found below the wings.

Favorite food source: Adult females lay their eggs on the “Corky” Passion Vine where larvae, once hatched begin to eat the soft leaves of the vine.

Habitat: A tropical garden species that can be found flying around at eye level in partially shaded areas of Quinta Mazatlan.

Red-bordered Pixie

Scientific Name: Malanis pixe

What’s special about this butterfly? The Red-Bordered Pixie, a member of the Metalmark Family, is a unique butterfly found only in the Rio Grande Valley. The species thrives near its larval food plant, the Guamuchil and flies almost year-round. Every year, it attracts nature enthusiasts from all over the world who would like to see this butterfly and check it off their list.

Features: A medium size butterfly with a black upper and under side. The tips of the forewings are bright yellow and the base of each wing has a small red dot. Red dots also run along the lower edge of each hind wing.

Favorite food source: The Guamuchil tree is the host plant for butterfly larvae. Adults feed on nectar from flowers of the Guamuchil tree, Desert Lantanaand Citrus trees.

Habitat: Riparian forest, city parks, gardens, and residential areas.

Southern Dogface

Scientific Name: Colias cesonia

What’s special about this butterfly? Throughout the Quinta Mazatlan gardens, you will find these yellow beauties skipping from flower to flower eagerly sipping nectar from our native trees and shrubs. Present year round throughout the Rio GrandeValley and Mexico.

Features: The color of the Southern Dogface is a striking yellow with dark brown to black markings on the upper side of the forewings. The shape of a dog’s face on the forewing is a distinct marking of this species and is visible when wings are closed.

Favorite food source: Adults feed on nectar from Prairie Vervain, Texas Frogfruit, and Shrubby Blue Sage. Caterpillars can be found feeding on legumes like Texas Kidneywood.

Habitat: Common in open sunny areas, grasslands and road edges.

Fiery Skipper

Scientific Name: Hylephila phyleus

What’s special about this butterfly? Grass skippers, including the Fiery Skipper are known for their swift, erratic movements. These tiny orange butterflies skip rapidly within tall and short grasses, occasionally basking under the warm sun and nectaring on a variety of flowers.

Features: Fiery Skippers are moth-like in appearance. Their bodies are larger than their wings and antennae are relatively shorter than most butterflies. Male skippers are yellow-orange with black toothed margins while females are similar, but more orange-brown.

Favorite food source: Adult skippers lay their eggs on lawn grasses like Bermuda grass. At Quinta Mazatlan, Fiery Skippers can be found visiting the tiny white blossoms of Texas Frogfruit and Golden Eye Daisy.

Habitat: Common in grassy areas where Bermuda grass is present, golf courses and residential lawns.

Mexican Bluewing

Scientific Name: Myscelia ethusa

What’s special about this butterfly? The Mexican Bluewing is a tropical woodland species whose northernmost range ends in the Rio Grande Valley. It can be seen flying slowly through the trails of the Quinta Mazatlan Thornforest orperched on the sides of treetrunks.

Features: The upper side of the butterfly reveals metallic purple-blue wings, marked with black bands, and white dots near the tips of the forewings. The underside of the wings is not as colorful as the surface, but a grey-brown closely resembling the bark of a tree.

Favorite food source: Adult butterflies will feed on the juices of rotting fruit like those of fallen Anacua berries. Adelia shrubs are the caterpillar’s food plant for this species.

Habitat: Scattered tropical forest or Thornforest habitats.

Guava Skipper

Scientific Name: Phocides palemon

What’s special about this butterfly? The Guava Skipper is uncommon in South Texas, but can be seen near Guava plantings. Usually one would have to travel south into Mexico to spot this species, but with luck one can find a Guava Skipper fluttering around Quinta Mazatlan.

Features: The Guava Skipper features a psychedelic color scheme which includes an orange head, a blue-green metallic colored body, turquoise stripes along the thorax and wings, and two distinct red spots on the front edge of the forewing. Together, these features make this butterfly truly one “groovy” insect.

Favorite food source: Larval food plant is the Guava. Adult butterflies can be found nectaring on White Plumbago and Betony Mistflower.

Habitat: Tropical forest.

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McAllen, TX 78504

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