The Zebra Longwing or Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonia) is a species of butterfly belonging to the subfamily Heliconiinae of the Nymphalidae. It was declared the official butterfly for the state of Florida in the United States in 1996.
The butterfly ranges over parts of North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. In North America the butterfly is found in the southern parts of the United States including Florida, Georgia, Virginia, North and South Carolina. In South and Central America, it has been recorded in Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The caterpillar feeds on Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea), Corky-stemmed Passionflower (Passiflora suberosa), and Two-flower Passionflower (Passiflora biflora). The adults are unusual among butterflies in that they eat pollen as well as sip nectar. This ability contributes to their longevity—3 months as an adult. Because of their relatively long lifespan and their activity throughout the day, this is a popular species with butterfly houses. Another unusual feature is that adults roost in groups of up to 70, and return to the same roost each evening.
In some publications the butterfly is referred to as Heliconius charitonius, but this is either a lapsus calami (slip of the pen) or unjustified emmendation of the original name given by Linnaeus in 1767, Papilio charithonia. Cramer in 1777 was apparently the first to publish this incorrect name. Godman & Salvin in 1901 referred to the species as H. charithonie [sic].
- Card for charithonia in LepIndex. Accessed 3 August 2007.
- Marrku Savela's Website on Lepidoptera Heliconius, funet.fi
- Scott, JA. 1986. The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide. Stanford University Press.