The Zebra Longwing Butterfly -( Heliconius charithornia) – was named Florida’s state butterfly in 1996. It can be seen throughout the state but most often in moist forests, tropical hammocks and dry areas. I took this picture of a Zebra Longwing on the nature trail at the Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers. It looks like it has had part of it’s wing eaten away maybe by a predator. This Zebra Longwing goes through metamorphosis or 4 stages of development, like all butterflies and moths, 1. egg, 2. larva(catepillar), 3. pupa (chrysalis) and then 4. adult buterfly. The Zebra Longwing is unique because it is the only butterfly known to feed on pollen and nectar while most butterflies feed only on the nectar of a flower. The Zebra is also unique because it has a longer lifetime, ususally about 6 months compared to 1 month for most butterflies and this is thought to occur because the catepillar feeds on a toxin fromt the passion vine which it hangs from during the pupa stage. The toxin is supposed to drive away predators and make them distasteful to eat. They roost at night in numbers which also protects them from predators. This butterfly was photographed at the Calusa Nature Center Nature Trail in Ft. Myers, Fla.
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