Look carefully below the butterfly, and you will see the yellow singly laid eggs of this zebra longwing butterfly (Heliconius charitonius tuckeri) photographed by Karen Schuster (Class of 2009) at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area. Also take note of how the pictured butterfly has curved her abdomen underneath her to oviposit (lay an egg).
The zebra longwing — and the related julia (Dryas iulia largo) & gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae nigrior) butterflies — use corky-stemmed passionflower vine (Passiflora suberosa) and maypop (Passiflora incarnata) as larval host plants.
The long-lived zebra longwing butterfly was named the Florida state butterfly in 1986. It prefers shadier places than sun-loving gulf fritillary and julia butterflies and frequently is seen in the shade of Brandon’s Garden at the entrance to the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area.
Eggs are laid on the most tender new foliage, so that the tiny first instar (stage) caterpillars can feed upon it.
Be sure to plant either one of these two native passionflower vines to ‘grow’ butterflies in your own yard. Eggs laid on some of the non-native species of passionflower vine will not make it to maturity.
Zebra longwing butteflies roost communally at night as shown below in a picture that I took more than 10 years ago at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, so plants lots of native passionflower vine to “interest” them in slumbering in your yard.
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