Page One Zebra Heliconian Butterflies Heliconius charithonia
The Zebra Longwing, or Zebra Heliconian Butterfly, is the Florida State Butterfly.
Zebra Longwing Face Close-up
It lays its eggs in groups on the tender tips of their host plant - our native Passiflora Vines.
Zebra Longwing Eggs
Zebra Longwing Eggs
The female Zebra below is laying eggs on Passiflora Suberosa, Corky Stem Passion Vine. The yellow material in her proboscis is pollen. Zebra butterflies are the only butterfly I know of in my area (Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Southeast Florida) that eat pollen. I've heard that they live longer than other butterflies because they eat it.
The flower above and the leaf the caterpillar is chewing are Passiflora Suberosa, but the leaves in the background are Cassia. You can explore my Butterfly Gardening Page to find out why I use the bush as a trellis for the vine.
passion vine flower and zebra caterpillar
The yellow eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars. As the caterpillars age, they go through several stages of growth, and shed their skin between each stage. The larger and older they get, the more their black and white colors stand out.
 
Her abdomen is puffy with fluid. Some she'll pump into her wings to extend them, and the rest she'll excrete. She'll have to hang upside-down for a couple of hours to dry her wings before she can fly. If she can't hang upside-down to dry them, they can dry bent and she will be unable to fly.

Those black spikes are actually very soft. I've held lots of these very cute caterpillars, and experienced no problems.

It's generally the moth caterpillars you need to watch out for; some of those sting, for example the IO Moth Caterpillar, so you always want to find out what you're picking up, and do a bit of research on it, before you handle it.

zebra heliconian butterfly laying eggs with pollen in her proboscis
Zebra Longwing caterpillars
Zebra Longwing caterpillar J Form
After the caterpillars have eaten their fill for about two weeks, they wander off to someplace they feel safe, hang upside-down, and curl like the letter 'J'. They'll hang in that 'J' form, shed their skin a final time, and turn into a chrysalis like the photos on the right. About ten days later, the butterfly will emerge, as seen in the image below where a female Zebra Butterfly is emerging from her chrysalis.
Zebra Longwing chrysalis
Zebra Longwing chrysalis
Zebra Longwing female emerging from chrysalis
The rest of the story about the emerging Zebra photo is on my Zebra Heliconian "Birds and the Bees" page.
This next Zebra is sipping nectar from a Firebush. Firebush is a favorite Zebra nectar plant, so if you want happy Zebra Heliconian Butterflies that stay in your butterfly garden, plant a native Firebush for them to nectar on. I'm planting more where I can see them easily as I enter and exit my home, and through windows that I look out often, such as the kitchen window. Dishes are a lot easier to do when there are a dozen butterflies nectaring outside the window in front of you!
Zebra Roost: Zebra Heliconians are group sleepers. Follow them just before sunset to find their roost.
Zebra Longwing perched on fingertip
zebra longwing nectars onfirebush
Zebra Longwing Roost
I made a Zebra Heliconian Coloring Page for Parents to print for their children to color, and have a nice gif (clipart like pix of the photo above.)
I've been told that my pages are too long, so I've split my Zebra images into multiple pages:
Zebra Heliconian Host Plants

Zebra Heliconian Nectar Plants

Compare the three butterflies (Zebra, Gulf, and Julia) that use passion vines as their host plant

Zebra Heliconian "Birds and the Bees"

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