Zebra Heliconius charithonia
Heliconius charithonia, the zebra longwing or zebra heliconian, is a species of butterfly belonging to the subfamily Heliconiinae of the Nymphalidae. The boldly striped black and white wing pattern is aposematic, warning off predators.
The species is distributed across South and Central America and as far north as southern Texas and peninsular Florida; there are migrations north into other American states in the warmer months.
Zebra longwing adults roost communally at night in groups of up to 60 adults for safety from predators. The adult butterflies are unusual in feeding on pollen as well as on nectar; the pollen enables them to synthesize cyanogenic glycosides that make their bodies toxic to potential predators. Note the pollen captured on the proboscis of this Zebra Heliconius.
Adults roost in groups of up to 60 individuals on a nightly basis, returning to the same roost every night. These roosts provide protection to adults, the large groups deterring predators and retaining warmth. Solitary individuals, or very small roosts, avoid exhibiting proper warning signals so as not to attract predators
H. charithonia is found in South America, Central America, the West Indies, Mexico, south Texas and peninsular Florida. Adults sometimes migrate north to New Mexico, South Carolina, and Nebraska during the warmer months. It was declared the official butterfly for the state of Florida in the United States in 1996. The species frequents tropical hammocks, moist forests, edges, or fields.