The longwing butterflies have unusually long lifespans and high fecundity rates, which largely result from their augmented diet. Instead of surviving on food stores from the larval stage or solely sipping flower nectar, adult longwing butterflies are avid pollen eaters. These trait make them eminently suitable for butterfly farming and butterfly gardening. Also, Adult Longwings may live for several months, much longer than most butterflies.
The longwing butterflies are also known as Heliconians. They are brightly colored butterflies with long forewings. Once placed in their own family, they are now considered closely related to the fritillaries. Larvae of most longwings feed on passion vines, and this host plant imparts noxious chemicals to the larvae which are carried over to the adult butterflies. This relationship is identical to the monarch butterflies’ reliance on its host plant, milkweed, for defense. Predators find these chemicals distasteful and avoid eating the butterflies.
Featured in Gems Gone Unnoticed On December 17/2010