07 December, 2021

The Destructive Power of Butterflies

Over the years, I have taken many photos of beautiful things at our place, including flowers and their various butterflies visitors. Lately we have seen hordes of variable cattleheart butterflies feasting on Pride of Barbados and verbena flowers.  They also go to cashew, hibiscus, sea grape, yellow alder, mango and almost any other flower.  Except they don't go to lily flowers.  The video below shows the butterfly action around Pride of Barbados flowers.

These Variable Cattlehearts are in the swallowtail family.  They are  mostly black with red spots along the rear edge of the hindwing and variable markings on the upper surface of the front wings.

Coincident with the uptick in butterfly numbers, I noticed that our normally lush crinum lilies (the strong smelling lilies, Roy!) looking pretty sad.
Crinum lily plants last August, looking robust and bearing many flowers.
Crinum lily plants yesterday - they look like they are melting.
The lily plants were covered in caterpillars of the Variable Cattleheart butterfly.
The caterpillars chomp along the leaf surface like a combine harvesting hay and spitting bales of poop in their wake.
This individual is pretty fat and may soon be ready to make a chrysalis.

I think the lilies will survive the onslaught; they have large bulbs similar to an amaryllis lily.  Although they look pretty rough right now, we will trim off the damaged leaves once the caterpillars are done and hopefully new leaves will emerge soon.  In the meantime we will enjoy the adult butterflies as they swarm the flowers and flit about in the sunshine.  We will also try to forgive them their destructive nature; they really can't help it.


  1. Oh my god. It’s paradise! I didn’t see this post in my feed for some reason. Thanks for steering me back here.

    1. Thanks for checking, Mitchell! It is paradise to us.


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