Popcorn Cassia (Pistacia fragilis) is a species of butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the only member of its genus Pistacia in the United States. Popcorn Cassia butterflies are small with wingspans from 1/4 inch to 2 inches. They have two dark spots on their forewings and one light spot on each hindwing, which gives them their common name “popcorn” in reference to their appearance.
The caterpillars feed on many different plants including tomato, potato, eggplant, peppermint, and other mints. The adults lay eggs on various parts of the plant such as leaves or flowers. Eggs hatch into larvae within 24 hours after hatching. Larvae pupate in soil before emerging as winged butterflies that overwinter in burrows dug out during winter months.
Popcorn Cassia Butterflies: Common Names
Common names given to the Popcorn Cassia butterflies include: Black-and-White, Brownie, Corncob, Cotton Candy, Dark Chocolate, Dark Cherry, Egghead, Fuzzy Bunny and Golden Retriever. These common names refer to the color of the butterfly’s wings and not their actual coloration. Some people use these common names when referring to all butterflies but they do not apply to all butterflies.
Life Cycle of the Popcorn Cassia Butterfly:
The life cycle of the butterfly begins when the adult butterfly emerges from its pupa by breaking out of its chrysalis. The chrysalis is a hard, J-shaped structure containing the almost fully grown adult butterfly. The newly emerged butterfly expands and hardens its wings by pumping bodily fluids through them. It then drinks flower nectar from nearby plants before it is ready to mate.
Males search for females by patrolling trees and shrubs in search of them. When two butterflies meet, they mate and the female will spend a few days maturing her eggs. The female butterfly lays her eggs on the leaves of plants that her caterpillar larvae can feed on. She lays between 10 and 60 eggs at one time. The caterpillar hatches from its egg after two weeks.
It is a tiny, white, segmented creature that is only an inch long.
The caterpillar begins to feed on the leaves of the food plant it has hatched on and grows rapidly. It sheds its skin (molts) four times as it grows. The fifth time it moults, the caterpillar becomes a pupa over the course of 7 days. The pupa is a hard, brown, J-shaped structure that the adult butterfly emerges from when it has fully developed.
The butterfly emerges after a week, softens and hardens its wings by pumping bodily fluids through them. It then flies off in search of nectar plants on which to feed. The cycle from egg to adult butterfly takes at least four weeks to complete under optimal conditions.
Popcorn Cassia Butterflies and Humans:
Very little is known about how humans interact with the Popcorn Cassia but they almost certainly don’t have any direct effect on humans or human life. They are small and docile creatures that feed on plants and don’t sting or bite so they are harmless to humans. They are quite common in many parts of the world too so their numbers are unlikely to ever drop low enough for people to notice.
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