Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan is 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 inches (2.8-3.2 cm). The Harvester is a small tan butterfly with dark wing borders and blotches on its upper surface. The underside has a ground color of reddish-orange (sometimes with a purplish sheen) with distinctive dark orange/brown circles rimmed with white rings.

ID TIp: Ventrally, reddish brown with numerous hindwing spots that are outlined in white. Note:  Highly erratic when disturbed.

Egg: Flat, gray/green discs are inserted into colonies of woolly aphids.

Caterpillar: Gray with pale yellow-brown bumps along the top; brown lateral lines; tufts of gray hairs that sprout from yellow tubercles. Carniverous,typically eating various species of wooly aphids Often decorates itself with shed aphid skins that give it a pinkish white appearance.

Chrysalis: Small and brown; resembles a monkey's face. It is the overwintering stage.

Intentionally looking for Harvesters generally leads to disappointment—they tend to show up unexpectedly, usually one or two at time.  Their flight has been described as a ricocheting bullet or a whirling dervish, but when laying eggs or sipping liquids, Harvesters may be quite docile and reluctant to move.

The Harvester's proboscis is proportionately shorter than that of any other butterfly.  Its primary adult food is nonfloral and it often feeds on aphid "honeydew."  Animal droppings are also visited. Males gather at wet spots along roads and streams.  

Female Harvesters insert their eggs deep within clumps of wooly aphids. Harvester caterpillars are carnivorous: the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”  Their sharp, pointed mouthparts enable them to impale unsuspecting aphids, and they are highly effective predators.  Their high protein diet enables them to grow rapidly so they may complete all life cycle stages in record time. In Alabama, we have found Harvesters eating wooly aphids associated with American Beech, Swamp Dogwood, Tag Alder, and a greenbriar/smilax.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Bibb, Calhoun, Chilton, Colbert, Elmore, Etowah, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Marshall, Morgan, Perry, Shelby, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Winston

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
7 4 7 1 6 5 1 2 2 1 2 1 1 1

Habitat

Generally resides in hardwood thickets near water.

Host and Nectar Plants

Caterpillars are carnivorous and eat woolly aphids that are often reported to associate with alders.

In Alabama Harvester caterpillars have been found to eat: Wooly Aphids on American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Swamp Dogwood (Cornus stricta), Tag Alder (Alnus serrulata), and a greenbriar (Smilax sp.).

Harvesters typically do not nectar. They sip liquid from aphid honeydew, carrion, dung, tree sap and mud.

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

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