Anartia jatrophae

Geographic Range

Anartia jatrophae are very common in Central America and the Caribbean, as well as southern Texas and Florida. Small numbers can also be found in North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas. (Emmit, 1999; Struttmann, 2004)


White peacock butterflies are commonly found in warm, open, weedy areas such as fields or parks where water is abundant -usually in the form of a pond or stream. Adult butterflies are often seen along roadside ditches where host plants are abundant. (Floridata, 2001; Struttmann, 2004)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools

Physical Description

The eggs of this species are small and green and found on the underside of host plant (Bacopa monniera) leaves. Caterpillars are black with silver or white dots and branched spines. The chrysalis is light green with small black dots. The upper side of the adult butterfly is white and contains a round black spot with a light-to-dark brown crescent-shaped trim on forewing. The hindwing has two spots similar to those on the forewing and is trimmed with the same crescent trim in brown to orange. The two front legs are non-functioning, giving the appearance of only four legs- characteristic of all members of the Nymphalidae family. In dry or winter seasons, the White Peacock becomes paler and larger. (Floridata, 2001; Struttmann, 2004)

  • Range wingspan
    5.1 to 7 cm
    2.01 to 2.76 in


Mature adults lay eggs on host plants. These eggs hatch 3-10 days later and the caterpillars live and feed on the host plant. The caterpillar transforms during the chrysalis stage into the adult butterfly form, completing holometablous metamorphosis. (Floridata, 2001; Hickman, et al., 1995)


Male white Peacocks perch or patrol in areas with an abundance of host plants and wait for a female. Males are very territorial and defends host plant territory from other species. It is still unclear if females mate more than once in their lifetime. (Lederhouse, et al., December 21, 1991)

Reproduction consists of a male seeking out a female. The male deposits a spermatophore into the female during copulation. Eggs are laid singly near or on the underside of leaves of the host plant Bacopa monniera. (Hickman, et al., 1995; Lederhouse, et al., December 21, 1991)

  • Breeding season
  • Range gestation period
    3 to 10 days

There is no evidence that parental care is given after eggs hatch.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 4 months


Males display a unique territorial behavior. Males stake out a territory, typically 15 meters in diameter, that contains larval host plants. Males perch in this area and aggressively protect it from other insects and other male white peacocks. (Lederhouse, et al., December 21, 1991; Struttmann, 2004)

Communication and Perception

Like all butterflies, the White Peacock uses a number of sense organs including ocelli, and tympanic organs that detect vibrations. The also use pheromones when seeking a mate. (Hickman, et al., 1995)

Food Habits

Caterpillars require Bacopa monniera as a food source. As adults, white peacock butterflies feed on shepherd's needle, white hyssop, matchheads, wild Petunias, cordia, casearia and composites. (Lederhouse, et al., December 21, 1991; Struttmann, 2004)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • nectar


The white peacock butterfly has fast, erratic flight that makes it difficult to attack. (Floridata, 2001)

  • Known Predators
    • Insectivorous birds.
    • Other insects.

Ecosystem Roles

Like many other butterflies the white peacock acts as a pollinator of various species of flowering plants including white hyssop, matchheads, and wild petunias. (Floridata, 2001)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is no evidence that this species benefits humans other than providing research and education opportunities.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no evidence this species adversely affects humans.

Conservation Status

Currently, there is no evidence that this species' numbers are threatened but it is on continual watch. (Cowley, 1997)


Sara Diamond (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Stacie Deleszek (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


having more than one female as a mate at one time


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Cowley, M. 1997. "NSIS: White Peacock Butterflies" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2002 at

Emmit, R. 1999. "RLEPhoto" (On-line). Accessed March 21, 2002 at

Floridata, 2001. "Butterflies" (On-line). Accessed March 21, 2002 at

Hickman, C., L. Roberts, A. Larson. 1995. Animal Diversity : Second Edition. United States of America: McGraw-Hill.

Lederhouse, R., S. Codella, D. Grossmueller, A. Maccarone. December 21, 1991. Host Plant-Based Territoriality in the White Peacock Butterfly, Anartia jatrophae (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Journal of Insect Behavior, Vol. 5, No. 6, 1992: 721-728.

Struttmann, J. 2004. "Butterflies of North America: White Peacock" (On-line). Accessed March 21, 2002 at