Zebra Longwing on Purple

Lisa G. Putman

Joined November 2007

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Artist's Description

Zebra Heliconian ~ Heliconius charithonia (Linnaeus, 1767)


Family: Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)

Subfamily: Longwings (Heliconiinae)

Identification: Wings long and narrow; black with narrow yellow stripes.

Life history: Males patrol for females, and are also attracted to female chrysalids. A male will wait on the chrysalis and mate with the female as she is about to emerge. He then deposits on her abdomen a chemical than repels other males. Eggs are laid in groups of 5-15 on leaf buds or leaves of the host plant; caterpillars feed at night on leaves. Adults roost communally in groups of 25-30 individuals.

Flight: All year in South Texas and southern Florida, wanders north during warmer months.

Wing span: 2 3/4 – 4 inches (7 – 10.1 cm).

Caterpillar hosts: Passion-vines including Passiflora suberosa, P. lutea, and P. affinis.

Adult food: Flower nectar and pollen, which are gathered on a set foraging route or “trap-line”. Favorite plants include lantana and shepherd’s needle.

Habitat: Tropical hammocks, moist forests, edges, fields.

Range: South America north through Central America, West Indies, and Mexico to South Texas and peninsular Florida. Occasional immigrant north to New Mexico, Nebraska, and South Carolina.

Conservation: Not usually required, but habitat for permanent populations is limited in South Texas.

NatureServe Global Status: G5 – Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Artwork Comments

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