The Determination of the Great Southern Butterfly, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


The Great Southern Butterfly, Flicker photo by Christina Reiman, 2013.
The Great Southern Butterfly, Flicker photo by Christina Reiman, 2013.
My attempt to capture an image of a Great White Butterfly in Sewall's Point Park stopping to eat along the way....
My attempt to capture an image of a Great Southern Butterfly in Sewall’s Point Park stopping to eat along the way….

You may have noticed them recently, hundreds, if not thousands, of white traveling butterflies moving south along our St Lucie River/ Indian River Lagoon?

I’ve noticed them, and was so amazed that I actually got out of my car and tried to video tape them. Standing at the Sewall’s Point Town Hall as they darted past, I thought to myself: “Who are these butterflies? I wonder where they are going? What a sense of purpose!”

Flying low, cars zooming past, drafts pushing their slight weight up over vehicles, and sometimes getting hit, they fall like white petals onto the street. Resembling a slow moving army of the American Civil War, they are unfazed by their opposition and keep moving in a formation invisible to the human eye.

So brave. So together—they know where they are going.

Known as the “Great Southern Butterfly,” this pretty, “aquamarined-antennaed” insect breeds in the remaining salt marshes of the Indian River Lagoon, laying eggs commonly on saltwort and reproducing after rains.

During the 1930s and beyond, tremendous  percentages of the Indian River Lagoon’s salt marshes were flooded for mosquito control purposes; thus certainly our present army of butterflies is much fewer today than in the past.

These hardy little butterflies can travel more than  40 miles in two days! Can you imagine? I admire their stamina, natural intelligence, and determination. They are a metaphor for our goals and for our lives as we try to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

In honor of their efforts, and the lessons they are teaching, I have determined to temporarily drop my speed while driving, I hope you will too.  🙂

Great Southern Butterfly, public photo.
Great Southern Butterfly, public photo.

Article on Great Southern Butterfly, Coastal Star: (
Salt marsh habitat and loss: (

8 thoughts on “The Determination of the Great Southern Butterfly, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. The next time you visit the River Kids Would you read them this—–The lagoon is dieing because there is NO CALCIUM in the lagoon any more. Kids need calcium for their bones and bodys to grow and they get their calcium mostly from drinking milk and some from other foods. The creatures in the lagoon get their calcium from the algie and plants that grow on calcium sea shells and beach sand. You can tell there is no more calcium in the lagoon by picking up a handful of sand from the lagoon and pouring viniger on it. There will be no reaction If you pour viniger on the sand on the beach you will see it foams up from reacting with the calcium.

  2. awww Jacqui..thanks for bringing awareness to those cute little butterflies…funny..I was just sitting in my yard last night and was amazed how many flew by..and yes..also in the roads…becoming sometimes roadkill…..again..thanks for your always great articles..and your love of wildlife

  3. I drove home from work from Stuart all along Sewell’s Point, all along the length of Hutchinson Island with hundreds of thousands of butterflies on both sides of the street taking flight and dancing thru the air. They were just so breathtakingly beautiful to see. I was terrified of driving really because I knew it was almost impossible not to kill any along the drive with my car. I had to say a little prayer for any that I might have hit…. but I felt so blessed myself with joy being able to see so many along my route. It was such a wondrous sight. One of those pure moments of joy one has in life!

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