One of my favorite local coastal natural areas is one that you may never have heard about, Manasota Scrub Preserve: https://www.scgov.net/Home/ShowDocument?id=30028 The trails west of Bridge St are off limits to dogs and you will encounter very few people, which explains why I find it a great place to both study and commune with nature. In several visits in early to middle April I found an abundance of interesting insect life, divided among butterflies, flies and dragonflies.
The zebra swallowtail is well named for its black and white stripes and depends on paw paw plants for a larval food source. They fly quite fast and it is possible that the long tails and red spots at the hind end confuse predatory birds about where to strike, protecting vulnerable areas of the head and body. It is a treat to see them near the coast.
The little yellow is one of the smaller sulphur butterflies that is common in the deep south region. Its delicate beauty has to be magnified to be fully appreciated. As is the case with most yellow sulphur butterflies, its caterpillars eat cassias/sennas, partridge pea and other legumes.
The common buckeye is a widespread butterfly seen throughout the southern and central US. Its habit of basking with outspread wings makes it a common sight in open ground and even driveways. Its many larval food plants include common weedy lawn plants such as toadflax and plantains. Its conspicuous eye spots are believed to direct the strikes of birds away from important body parts and possibly scare some away.
You may not usually consider flies worth studying but there are many interesting and important species. For example the deerfly which is normally hated for its sharp bite to obtain blood is here shown apparently pollinating a rare and beautiful pink spiderwort or roseling. Other kinds of insects such as this ferocious, predatory robberfly actually kill other insects and help in controlling obnoxious species.
Dragonflies or odonates are famous for their insect eating habits and important role in controlling populations of other insects including mosquitoes. The Halloween pennant is especially attractive in coloration and is widespread in the eastern US. As is the case for most dragonflies, the larvae are aquatic predators and propel themselves with jets of water from the abdomen. The bar-winged skimmer is a southeastern species that is less often identified since it is less distinctive. A much more common dragonfly is the eastern pond hawk which seems to be a migrant as well as a local resident. The coloration of the greenish females is quite different from the bluish males. Such sexual dimorphism is common among dragonflies and illustrates the complex reproductive behavior in even such primitive and ancient insects, which are estimated to be 300 million years old as a group.
If you learn some of the common local insects you will observe an amazing and fascinating world wherever you walk.