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State Butterflies
State Butterflies

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Florida State Butterfly

Zebra Longwing Butterfly

Florida State Butterfly - Zebra Longwing

(Heliconius charitonius)

Adopted on April 26, 1996

In 1996 the state legislature designated the zebra longwing as Florida official state butterfly. The zebra longwing, (Heliconius charitonius,) is commonly spotted in south Florida, especially in the hammocks and thickets of Everglades National Park. Long black wings with distinctive thin yellow bands - combined with slow, graceful flight - characterize the zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonius). It has a wide range of habitats, including hardwood hammocks, thickets, and gardens. The zebra longwing is found throughout the state, although it is more common in south Florida, particularly in the Everglades National Park.

Florida State Butterfly: Zebra Longwing Butterfly

Florida State Butterfly - Zebra Longwing

The longwing is not so common in northern part of the state. The zebra longwing roosts in a flock with its kin. The longwing sleeps so soundly that you can literally pick it off its roost and return it later, without waking any of the rest of its family. The longwing is so comfortable with its perch, it also faithfully returns to the same perch every night. During the day her flight is slow, feeble, and wafting, but she can quickly dart to shelter if threatened or approached.

This black and yellow butterfly has been a loved native of Florida and is known for dining on the sweet nectar of passion flowers. It has been a long crawl for the insect kingdom to receive an honorary position in Florida, with the praying mantis having lost as the last bid for state insect in 1972.

Characteristics of the Zebra Longwing Butterfly

Zebra Longwing ButterflyThe zebra longwing butterfly has long, narrow wings. Its wings are black with light yellow zebra-like stripes. It has long black antennae.

Range

The zebra longwing butterfly can be found in the southern United States from Texas to Florida. It is also found in Central America and northern South America.

Habitat

The zebra longwing butterfly lives in warm, damp tropical areas. It is often found in hammocks and thickets.

Diet

The zebra longwing butterfly caterpillars eat the leaves of passion flowers. The passion flower contains a toxin that gives the zebra longwing an unpleasant taste and makes it poisonous to predators. The butterfly drinks the nectar of a wide range of flowers.

Life Cycle

The zebra longwing butterfly begins mating right after it emerges from its chrysalis. The female lays five to fifteen eggs on the leaves of passion flower vines. The caterpillar has a white body with long black spines and a yellow head. If weather conditions are right, the zebra longwing butterfly can go from egg to butterfly in a little over three weeks.

Behavior

When it is disturbed, the zebra longwing butterfly makes a creaking sound by wiggling its body. At night, large groups will roost together on tree limbs. They return to the same roost night after night

Florida Law

The law designating the Zebra Longwing as the official Florida state butterfly is found in the Florida Revised Statutes, Title 2, Chapter 15.

TITLE IV - EXECUTIVE BRANCH Ch.14-24.
CHAPTER 15 - SECRETARY OF STATE.
SECTION 15.0382.

15.0382 Official state butterfly. - The Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius) is designated the official state butterfly

History.--s. 1, ch. 96-153.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Zebra Longwing

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)
    Subphylum: Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class: Insecta (Insects)
Order: Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily: Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
    Family: Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
        Subfamily: Heliconiinae (Heliconians and Fritillaries)
Tribe: Heliconiini (Longwings or Heliconians)
Genus: Heliconius
Species: charithonia (Zebra Longwing - Hodges#4418)
State Insects,
Butterflies, and Bugs
State Insects,
State insects are selected by 45 states of the 50 United States. Some states have more than one designated insect, or have multiple categories (e.g., state insect and state butterfly, etc.).
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