Zebra (Heliconius charithonius [Linnaeus])
Wing span: 2 3/4 - 4 inches (7 - 10.1 cm).
Identification: Wings long and narrow; black with narrow yellow stripes.
Life history: Males patrol for females, and are also attracted to female chrysalids. A male will wait on the chrysalis and mate with the female as she is about to emerge. He then deposits on her abdomen a chemical than repels other males. Eggs are laid in groups of 5-15 on leaf buds or leaves of the host plant; caterpillars feed at night on leaves. Adults roost communally in groups of 25-30 individuals.
Flight: All year in South Texas and southern Florida, wanders north during warmer months.
Caterpillar hosts: Passion-vines including Passiflora suberosa, P. lutea, and P. affinis.
Adult food: Flower nectar and pollen, which are gathered on a set foraging route or "trap-line". Favorite plants include lantana and shepherd's needle.
Habitat: Tropical hammocks, moist forests, edges, fields.
Range: South America north through Central America, West Indies, and Mexico to South Texas and peninsular Florida. Occasional immigrant north to New Mexico, Nebraska, and South Carolina.
Conservation: Not usually required, but habitat for permanent populations is limited in South Texas.
The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management needs: Maintain habitat and host plant colonies.
Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates. Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates. Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates. Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.
Author: Jane M. Struttmann
State and Regional References:
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.