Polk County’s most wanted: Brush-footed Butterflies 

Published 10:44 pm Sunday, March 3, 2019

In a joint effort to expand the knowledge and understanding of the flora and fauna of Polk County, Conserving Carolina and botanist/ecologist David Campbell need your help in locating this month’s “Polk County’s Most Wanted—Animal, butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae, the Brush-footed Butterflies. 


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This family of butterflies gets its name from the fact that its front legare shorter than the other four legs, and these front legs don’t have feet, just little brushes of hairs that the butterflies can use to smell and taste with. Sometimes the front legs are so small you can’t even see them.  


Butterflies in the Nymphalidae family are found in both the Old and New Worlds, and several species are common in North Carolina. The Brush-footed Butterflies are medium-sized and display a wide range of forms.  


Some Nymphalidae are capable of migrating great distances, but many species in this group hibernate as adults and may be seen on warm days in winter and early spring. Although they will visit flowers, Brush-footed Butterflies prefer sap runs, rotting fruit, carrion, and even dung. Depending on the species, in our region, larval host plants include currants, willows, elm, and birch. Caterpillars are often covered in spikes as a means of defense and they may feed communally.  


In Polk County, commonly encountered species include the Mourning Cloak, Comma, and Question Mark butterflies, although there are others. As the weather is warming up look for these butterflies along old dirt roads, woodland paths, and semi-open areas receiving sun for part of the day.  


Visit Conserving Carolina’s website, conservingcarolina.org/polk-most-wanted, for more information about “Polk County’s Most Wanted” and to download and print a “Pocket Guide” with all of the “Most Wanted” plants, animals, and habitats that you can be on the lookout for!  


– Submitted by Pam Torlina/written by David Campbell