Zebra Longwing Butterfly | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Zebra Longwing Butterfly | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Overview


The Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charithonia) is a striking insect with a wingspan of about 2.5 to 3 inches. Its wings are long and narrow, primarily black, adorned with vibrant yellow or white stripes.

Origins And Evolution

The Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charithonia) has its origins in the neotropical regions of the Americas. It's a member of the Heliconiinae subfamily, known for its diverse and colorful wing patterns. The Zebra Longwing, specifically, is native to Central and South America, including parts of the United States, like Florida and Texas.

Its evolution is deeply entwined with the development of host plants and nectar sources. Over time, these butterflies adapted to feed on specific Passionflower vines, which contain toxic compounds. This adaptation led to their striking black and yellow striped appearance, serving as a warning to predators of their unpalatability.

Their remarkable evolutionary history involves co-evolution with the plants they feed on, illustrating the intricate ecological relationships between butterflies and their host plants in the neotropical rainforests.

Behavior and Lifestyle

The Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charithonia) exhibits unique behavior and a distinctive lifestyle. They are known for their diurnal activity, spending daylight hours foraging and engaging in courtship displays.

These butterflies are gregarious and often form small groups when feeding on nectar, which aids in predator avoidance. They are also famous for their long-distance migrations, covering considerable distances in search of food and suitable breeding grounds.

Zebra Longwings lay their eggs on Passionflower vines, which serve as the primary larval host plant, and their caterpillars are known for their gregarious feeding behavior, often congregating on the same plant.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Lepidoptera
  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Subfamily: Heliconiinae
  • Genus: Heliconius
  • Species: Heliconius charithonia

Zebra Longwing Butterfly Locations

  • Southern United States (e.g., Florida, Texas)
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • Northern South America
  • Caribbean Islands
  • Venezuela
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Brazil

Fast Facts

  • Name: Zebra Longwing
  • Scientific Name: Heliconius charithonia
  • Habitat: Tropical forests
  • Diet: Nectar, pollen
  • Physical Features: Striped wings
  • Nocturnal: No
  • Solitary: No
  • Unique Order: Lepidoptera
  • Lifespan: 6-12 months
  • Conservation Status: Not assessed
  • Fun Facts: State butterfly

Physical Characteristics

  • Color: Striking patterns
  • Skin Type: Delicate wings
  • Top Speed: Slow flutter
  • Lifespan: 6-12 months
  • Weight: Lightweight flyer
  • Length: Medium-sized
  • Age of Sexual Maturity: Varied
  • Age of Weaning: N/A


What is a Zebra Longwing Butterfly?

The Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charithonia) is a species known for its striking black wings with yellow or white stripes.

Where can Zebra Longwing Butterflies be found?

They are primarily found in tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, including the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.

What do Zebra Longwing Butterflies eat?

They primarily feed on nectar from various flowers, and their caterpillars eat Passionflower vines.

Are Zebra Longwing Butterflies toxic?

Yes, they are toxic to predators due to the toxins they ingest from Passionflower vines, which makes them unpalatable.

Do Zebra Longwing Butterflies migrate?

Yes, they are known for long-distance migrations, flying hundreds of miles during seasonal movements.

How long do Zebra Longwing Butterflies live?

Their lifespan typically lasts several months, but it can vary depending on environmental conditions.

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