Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies)
Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)

Genus/species: Heliconius hewitsoni

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: A distinctive black butterfly with yellow transverse bands on fore- and hindwings. H. hewitsoni is very similar in general appearance to its Müllerian mimic H.pachinus. (Species with strong defences evolve to resemble one another and deter predation).


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Found in the province of Chiriqui (Panama) and the Pacific slopes of Costa Rica. Usually individuals fly rapidly and in the canopy.

REMARKS: Heliconius are recognized by their large eyes, long antennae, characteristic elongate wing-shape, teardrop-shaped hindwing discal (disc-like) cell, and distinctive color patterns.

Adult butterflies systematically collect pollen from flowers, which they masticate on the proboscis to dissolve out amino acids. This allows caterpillars to develop relatively rapidly (since they do not need to store nutrients for egg and sperm production), and allows adults to have a greatly extended lifespan – up to 8 months – in the wild.

A second unusual trait found in some Heliconius species is a unique mating behaviour known as pupal-mating. Males of certain species search larval food plants for female pupae. The males then sit on the pupae a day before emergence, and mating occurs the next morning, before the female has completely closed (insect emerging from the pupa stage.)


California Academy of Sciences Rainforest 2017 Photo vetted Tim Wong


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