Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1¼ inches (2.8 - 3.2 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) tan with dark wing borders and dark blotches. Hindwing with row of dark spots on lower edge. UNDER SURFACE (ventral) Reddish-orange (sometimes with a purplish sheen); distinctive dark orange/brown circles rimmed with white rings.

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

Egg: Flat, gray/green discs; inserted into or near colonies of woolly aphids.

Caterpillar: Gray with pale yellow-brown bumps along top; brown lateral lines; tufts of gray hairs that sprout from yellow tubercles. Often decorates itself with shed aphid skins that give it a pinkish white appearance.

Chrysalis: Small and brown; resembles a monkey's face. 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.  Harvesters typically do not nectar. They sip liquid from aphid honeydew, carrion, dung, tree sap and mud. Animal droppings are also visited. Males gather at wet spots along roads and streams.  They perch on low branches to watch for unmated females.

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. This high protein diet enables them to grow rapidly, so they complete all life cycle stages in record time, sometimes in as little as three weeks.  Harvester chrysalides are typically described as resembling a monkey’s face. From the side, they also look like an animal dropping, which probably results in better protection from predators.

Harvesters range across the eastern United States.  In Alabama, they are widespread and probably occur in more counties than current records indicate.

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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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

Sightings in the following counties: Bibb, Calhoun, Chambers, Chilton, Colbert, Elmore, Etowah, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Macon, Marengo, Marshall, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Shelby, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Winston

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 14 - Jackson - 4/24/2014
  • 6 - Jackson - 5/14/2014
  • 4 - Colbert - 9/2/2017
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 3 2 5 2 8 4 3 14 1 7 2 8 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 4 1 5 1


Hardwood thickets near water, alder swamps, stream edges in deciduous woodlands. 

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius)
© Sara Bright
Hardwood thicket near water

Host and Nectar Plants

Wooly aphid colonies with Harvester use have been documented on the following plants in Alabama:

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius)
© Sara Bright
Wooly aphids on Tag Alder

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