Statira Sulphur Butterfly

Aphrissa statira

Statira Sulphur Butterfly

Statira sulphur butterfly, photographed at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, in July 2014.

The statira sulphur butterfly, Aphrissa statira, is medium-sized butterfly that is fairly common in South Florida. It is a creature of the tropics, and the extreme southern United States, including Florida, South Texas and New Mexico is the northern end of its normal range. Not being entirely proficient in geography and map-reading, it does occasionally wander into southern Georgia and even as far north as Kansas.

The other end of statira sulphurs' range extends as far south as Argentina.

This butterfly has a wingspan between two-and-three-eighths inches and three-and-an-eighth inches. The wings of the male when folded are pale green to lemon yellow. They're "pure," lacking either spots or lines of other colors seen on other sulphurs. The upper side of the wings are distinct, pale on the outside edges and lemon yellow toward the inside (as seen in the photo below). Females are lemon yellow with a black border and a black spot on each of the fore wings.

Statira butterflies are found in scrubs, along rivers and the edges of forests. In the tropics, it is a migratory butterfly, usually following rivers. Males often light on moist river sand to sip water, and often congregate there in large numbers — as many as a hundred have been seen occupying a single square foot. The butterfly at the left and bottom was found on the sandy banks of a retention pond in Boynton Beach.

Its host plants include coinvine and calliandra — females lay a single egg on the leaves of these plants, where the next generation of statiras will begin life eating away at the plant. Statira caterpillars are green. Statiras can produce as many as three generations in a year.

Adult statira butterflies dine on the nectar of red-flowered plants, including firebush, as photographed above.

The population of statira sulphurs is considered secure, although it can be rare in parts of its range, particularly in the Florida Keys.

The statira sulphur is a member of the Pieridae family of mostly tropical white, yellow or orange medium to small butterflies. We've also seen the scientific name of the statira sulphur listed as Phoebe statira, but Aphrissa statira seems to be more widely accepted. In any case, the differences between the two genera are considered minor.

As for its common name, we're not quite sure its origins. We're guessing the name comes from the wife/sister of Darius III of Persia, considered at the time to be the most beautiful woman in all of Asia. She became wife to Alexander the Great after Darius's defeat at the battle of Issus.

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Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.

Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.