Zebra Longwing Butterfly
Heliconius charitonius

Digital Image, Burnt Corn Creek Nature Park, Brewton Alabama
October 22, 2003

The Zebra Longwing is also known as "Yellow-barred Heliconian," and is found in the southern United States from Texas to Florida and Central America and northern South America. Its preferred habitat is warm, damp tropical areas; often in hammocks and thickets. The caterpillar feeds mainly on passion flower foliage and its flight is year-round.

The Zebra has long, narrow wings that are usually black with three yellow lines crossing the fore wings. The hind wings have a long band and a row of yellow spots beneath that. The wingspan is usually no more than three inches. A distinct characteristic is its long black antennae.

The caterpillar is grayish color with brown or sometimes black spots with 6 rows of spikes. light yellow zebra-like stripes. It eats the leaves of passion flowers, which contains a toxin. The toxin, in turn, gives the Zebra an unpleasant taste and makes it poisonous to predators. The butterfly drinks the nectar of a wide range of flowers.

The Zebra begins mating right after it emerges from the chrysalis. Females lay 5 to 15 eggs on the leaves of passion vines. If weather conditions are right, it can go from egg to butterfly in a little over three weeks.

When disturbed, the Zebra makes a creaking sound by wiggling its body. At night large groups roost together on tree limbs. They return to the same roost night after night.

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