Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)

Zebra longwings are common visitors in the garden in warm climates, such as here in sunny Florida where it became the state butterfly in the late 90s. Most butterflies only have a lifespan of a few weeks, however the zebra longwing can live in a tropical climate for months enjoying the nectar of flowers and something unusual for a butterfly, pollen. A longwing uncoils it's elongated proboscis to collect the sticky pollen. Pollen is very nutritious, super rich in proteins, unlike sugary nectar which contains almost no proteins. This special diet allows the zebra longwing to prolong their lives for months instead of weeks.

Another interesting characteristic of these beauties is they remember their food sources and may return daily to their favorite plants in the garden where they fed previously. The zebra longwing butterflies love to visit Pentas, Zinnias (as featured here), and wild Spanish Needles. The magnificent butterflies lay their eggs on the foliage of passionflower vine and the leaves of passionflower vine are food for the caterpillars of the zebra longwing butterfly.

They have such a graceful flight and are a true delight gracing the garden with their presence.

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