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

Genus/species: Heliconius sapho


GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: H. sapho and H. cydno are Müllerian mimics (two or more unrelated noxious, critters exhibit similar warning systems), which is exhibited in the mimetic wing pattern. NOTE: Batesian mimicry differs because one critter of two similar critters is not noxious. In this case the predators avoid all organisms with a given or similar warning, thus making the resemblance a protective mechanism for the non noxious organism.
Heliconius sapho is black and white but has a blue metallic sheen when seen under the right lighting conditions. It can be distinguished from its co-mimic H. cydno by the ventral surface of the hind wings, which exhibit basal red rays and no brown bars.

Wing span 3-3.5 inches

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Sapho longwings are found in central and northwestern South America to the west of the Andes in dense rainforests.

DIET IN THE WILD:  H. sapho  have a complex coevolved relationship with only one host plant, Passiflora pitteri.  Heliconius spp. caterpillars eat the plants that making their tissues poisonous. The butterflies are usually unpalatable to predators.

Wing bottom


REPRODUCTION: Also a pupal-mater (see Zebra Longwing)

LONGEVITY: Relatively long-lived


California Academy of Sciences Rainforest 2017

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Tree of Life Project


Missouri Botanical Garden