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

Genus/species: Heliconius charithonia


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: The wings are long, narrow, patterned with black and yellow stripes. Wing span: 2 3/4 – 4 inches.

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Tropics and subtropics of Central and South America. Also West Indies, Mexico, southern Texas, Florida, and occasionally as far west as New Mexico and north to the Carolinas.  H. charithonia are found in moist forests, edges, and fields.


DIET IN THE WILD: Adults feed on flower nectar and pollen. Larvae feed almost exclusively on the leaves of a few host species of passion flowers (genus Passiflora).

REPRODUCTION: Almost half of the Heliconian species, including the Zebra Longwing, practice a unique mating behavior known as pupal mating. The male seeks out larval host plants to find female pupae of its species, and may fend off other males from one or more pupae for up to a week before the female butterfly emerges. Mating takes place before the female is fully hardened. With the exception of one other species, Heliconians are the only butterflies known to practice this behavior.

PREDATORS:  Taken by birds and larger insects.

REMARKS: Declared the Florida State Butterfly in 1996. Species name refers to the Charities, or Graces, of Greek mythology, known as the epitome of charm and natural beauty. The Zebra Longwing, because of its striking pattern and long life, is a favorite species for butterfly exhibits. This species also practices communal roosting.


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