This Week's Post: "Zebra Longwing" (Heliconius charithonia)

This weekly blog post and its host website cover a wide variety of Fred Montague's environmental commentaries, gardening topics, and wildlife/art activities.  Please browse the website and the blog archives for topics you are interested in. 

"Zebra Longwing" (Heliconius charithonia)

This is a drawing I completed several years ago and is now in a private collection.  It is about 12" x 16" and rendered in pen and ink.


The living animal is about 3" from wingtip to wingtip.  The wings are black and the slashes and broken lines of spots are yellow. Undersides are also black but with paler streaks.  It is a tropical species that occurs as far north as the Gulf Coastal States, South Carolina, the lower Mississippi drainage, and Mexico.  Larvae feed on passionflowers and concentrate the poisonous compounds these plants produce.  While the plant chemicals are harmless to the larvae and adult butterflies, they make the insects unpalatable to predators.  The black-and-yellow color patterns provide a conspicuous warning.

The Zebra Longwing (or simply Zebra) is not related to the Zebra Swallowtail. More information on the zebra longwing is available at the "Featured Creatures" website (University of Florida Entomology).

To view another of Fred's available butterfly drawings ("Calico Butterfly"), visit the original drawings gallery.