Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Zebra Butterfly - (Heliconius charithonia)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 2/11/2014

The classic white and black stripes of the Zebra Butterfly are bold and stately on this Longwing Butterfly.

Picture of Zebra Butterfly

A common sight in moist, tropical environments, the Zebra Butterfly can be found in that habitat all year round. It is highly identifiable by the yellow/white-on-black coloring when fully developed. Some stripes are yellow, others are white, but all species have a zebra-like pattern on the tops and bottoms of their wings. A few, small red spots near the body of the butterfly can be seen on both sides of the forewings. Its forelegs are considerably shorter than its back legs as is the case with all members of the Brush-Footed Butterfly family. Though active flyers throughout the day, Zebra Butterflies actually will band together at night in large groups.

The caterpillar is a gray or white with spots that may appear as black or brown. They feed on the leaves of the passion vine plant which contains noxious chemicals that the caterpillar retains in its body through adulthood. This makes both the caterpillar and adult unsavory meals for most predators.

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Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common name: Zebra Butterfly
Scientific Name: Heliconius charithonia
Other Names: Yellow-barred Heliconian

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Lepidoptera
      Family: Nymphalidae
       Genus: Heliconius
        Species: charithonia

Adult Size (Length): 75mm to 85mm (2.95in to 3.35in)

Identifying Colors: black; white; yellow

Additional Descriptors: flying

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.