Zebra Longwing: Florida State Butterfly
Zebra Longwing, Heliconius Charitonia
The zebra longwing was designated the state butterfly of Florida in 1996. An inhabitant of more forested shaded areas, it is often found in subtropical hammocks, forest margins, shrubby thickets, and adjacent open areas. It is a regular sight in many butterfly gardens and suburban yards and parks.
The zebra longwing is a neotropical butterfly that occurs in extreme southern portions of the United States. Adults occasionally wander northward. It is locally common throughout peninsular Florida.
Adults– Zebra Longwings are medium-sized butterflies with elongated wings. They cannot be confused with any other Florida butterfly. Adults have a wingspan range of 72-100 mm. The sexes are similar. The upper surface of the wings is black with several bold, narrow yellow stripes. The wings below have a similar pattern, but are paler in color and have several small red spots near the body.
Eggs– The yellow eggs, also known as chrysalis, are laid singly or in small clusters on new growth of the host plant.
Larvae– The mature larvae are white with black spots and numerous black branched spines.
The zebra longwing produces multiple generations each year. Adults may be found in all months of the year throughout much of central and southern portions of Florida. Adults have slow, relaxed flight. Females lay the small yellow eggs singly or in small clusters on terminal leaves and tendrils of the host plants.
Adult zebra longwing butterflies feed on both flower nectar and pollen. The additional nutrients from the pollen enable individuals to survive for several months, far exceeding the normal two to four week adult life span of most other butterflies. Adult individuals often from small communal roosts at night.
Common hosts are purple passionflower, corkystem passionflower, yellow passion flower, and several other passionflower vines. As caterpillars, they eat the leaves which contain a toxin that gives the zebra longwing an unpleasant taste and makes it poisonous to predators. As a butterfly, it drinks nectar from a wide variety of plants.
Chris Vann- Extension Agent- Agriculture/4-H