Zebra Longwing

Heliconius charithonia

Summary 5

The Zebra Longwing or Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonia) is a species of butterfly belonging to the subfamily Heliconiinae of the Nymphalidae. The boldly striped black and white wing pattern is aposematic, warning off predators.

Description 6

Adult butterflies are monomorphic of medium size with long wings. On the dorsal side, the wings are black with narrow white and yellow stripes, with a similar pattern on the ventral side, but paler and with red spots. The wingspan ranges from 72 to 100 mm.

Larval Description 5

The caterpillars are white with black spots and have numerous black spikes along their body.

Larval host plants 5

The caterpillar feeds on Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea), Corky-stemmed Passionflower (Passiflora suberosa), and Two-flower Passionflower (Passiflora biflora). Larvae regulate their nutritional input to an equal protein-carbohydrate ratio. They feed on the Passiflora plants on which their mother laid their eggs. Passiflora plants have trichomes, structures that reduce herbivore attack physically or chemically. H. charithonia larvae can avoid the effects of trichomes, being able to free themselves from the entrapment of a trichome by pulling their legs from the hold of the trichome hook, and laying silk mats on the trichomes, providing a surface to walk on more easily, and they remove the tips of the trichomes by biting them. Trichome tips are found in the faeces of these individuals. Larvae often try to avoid areas where trichome density is highest by staying on the under surface of the leaves.

GTM Occurrence 7

The Zebra Longwing is considered uncommon at the GTM. It occurs along all Transects, but most sightings are in the open habitat along Transect A. Is present from June to December with peak abundance in June. There have been 21 specimens observed as of December 28, 2015.

Distribution 5

H. charithonia is found in South America, Central America, the West Indies, Mexico, south Texas and peninsular Florida. Adults sometimes migrate north to New Mexico, South Carolina, and Nebraska during the warmer months. It was declared the official butterfly for the state of Florida in the United States in 1996.

Habitat 5

The species frequents tropical hammocks, moist forests, edges, fields, and urban butterfly gardens.

Nature serve conservation status 8

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread and common in neotropics, apparently secure in southern Florida.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Eric Bronson, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), http://www.flickr.com/photos/14571133@N03/2337257511
  2. (c) Joachim S. Müller, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), https://www.flickr.com/photos/joachim_s_mueller/6015041985/
  3. (c) Drriss & Marrionn, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), https://www.flickr.com/photos/drriss/21196922088/
  4. (c) Mary Keim, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), https://www.flickr.com/photos/38514062@N03/14489797211/
  5. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliconius_charithonia
  6. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliconius_charithonia
  7. (c) GTMResearchReserve, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
  8. (c) NatureServe, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), http://eol.org/data_objects/28841546

More Info

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Category name uncommon
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