Moringa Garden Circle Official Butterfly

Ruddy Daggerwing

Marpesia Petreus

Photos: Barbara Richie

ruddy daggerwing butterfly


Gardening Tips

Admirals and Relatives (Subfamily Limenitidinae)

Ruddy Daggerwing
Marpesia Petreus

  • Common Name: The Ruddy Daggerwing, for orange color and hooked wings.
  • Description: With a wingspan of Wing span: 2 3/4 - 3 3/4 inches (7 - 9.5 cm)., Tip of forewing is elongated. Hindwing has long dagger-like tails. Upperside is orange with 3 thin black lines. Underside is mottled brown and black, resembling a dead leaf.
  • Life history: To watch for females, males perch 15-30 feet above ground on sunlit trees 
  • Caterpillar hosts: Common fig (Ficus carica) and wild banyan tree (F. citrifolia) in the fig family (Moraceae).
  • Adult food: Nectar from giant milkweed in Florida; Cordia, Casearia, Lantana, and Mikania in the tropics. 
  • Habitat: Hardwood hammocks and thickets. Nature trails, through the hardwood hammocks in Everglades National Park, are a good place to watch for the Ruddy Daggerwing.
  • Range: Brazil north through Central America, Mexico, and the West Indies to southern Florida. Strays north to Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and South Texas.
  • Flight: Most of the year in Florida, but are most common from May-July.
  • Conservation: Not of conservation concern in Florida.T he Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery. 
Note:This species is also often found on rotting fruit which makes it an appropriate choice for our mascot,  since the Moringa members are fond of sipping wine .
This species is also oten found on rotting fruit.
Photo: Barbara Richie

Ruddy daggerwing caterpillar
Ruddy Daggerwing Caterpillar

Art Constantio, shares with us his photos and commentary on the Ruddy Daggerwing caterpillar he observed in his garden.  Art is a "Galloping Gardener"  who loves to take photos of visitors in his yard. View his online album.

ruddy daggerwing baby caterpillar Ruddy Daggerwing caterpillar at 18 days old
My first sighting of a Ruddy daggerwing being born in the yard.  In the picture above left, the cat is about a week old.  I only saw the babies one day then they disappeared for about a week or so.  This picture is when they re-emerged from wherever they were hiding.  The little guy had just finished eating the meat off a tip of a leaf. In the image on the right, the Ruddy Daggerwing cat is approximately 18 days old
Ruddy daggerwing about 18 days old.
before chrysalis
Above - Ruddy Daggerwing about two weeks old. Ruddy Daggerwing cat the night before going into chrysalis.
 Note when they are eating they stretch themselves out lots more than when they are resting (and frozen) as shown above.
You can file this under strange behavior of insects.

 Over the many mornings and nights I photographed these insects I noticed when there is movement on the bush they are feasting on, all the cats visible to my eyes at that moment in time...froze, i.e. if when trying to get a better picture, or focus or set my timer or whatever, I bumped into a branch or leaf, they all froze.  Even cats several branches away would freeze. They would not move for several minutes. 

I don't remember another caterpillar doing this
ruddy danngerwing chrysalis
Ruddy daggerwing emerging from chrysalis about four days later
I have had these butterflies here for years but until this year they made use of a full size Strangler fig in the next door yard.  Since the tree damaged from Wilma was removed last year.  I have kept a couple of small Strangler fig's in the yard just so the Ruddy daggerwings would have a host plant here.  In all the time they have been in the yard, this is the first chrysalis of them I had ever seen. Ruddy daggerwing emerging from chrysalis.

for information on the Ruddy Daggerwing at Butterflies and moths of North America visit*Florida

For photos and information on other Butterflies in Broward County 
visit  Butterflies for Broward County

To learn about butterlies and how to bring them into your yard with a list of  nectar plants and larval plants you can put in your south Florida garden
visit A Garden Diary - A Guide to Gardening in South Florida - Butterflies

Visit The Florida Museum of Natural History where you will find a searchable database of butterflies and wildflowers