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Julia Longwing Butterfly (Dryas iulia)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Julia Longwing Butterfly

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Alligator tears -real ones- are a welcome sight to the Julia Longwing Butterfly, a Brazilian transplant that thrives in humidity and heat.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Julia Longwing Butterfly is a member of the diverse Brush-footed Butterfly family. This means it is related to the Monarch, Viceroy, Malachite, the Fritillary subfamily, Painted Lady, and Common Buckeye butterflies. The front pair of legs on these butterflies is very short and almost so difficult to see that people may think it only has 4 legs. They are covered in short bristles, or hairs, like a hair brush, but this feature does not make them any more visible. Its yellow wings are elongated well beyond the typical butterfly. An angled black line runs across the wing from the top to the bottom edge. A short row of small, black crescents create a fringe-effect along the bottom of the forewings.

The adult feeds on the nectar of meadow flowers such as lantana, with its medley of orange and pink flowers, or Shepherd's needle. The Julia Longwing Butterfly is also known to land on a resting caimans' head (small alligator-like animals) where it will deliberately irritate the reptile's eyes using the proboscis. This mild agitation causes the caiman to produce tears. The butterflies then drink the tears, most likely for the salt, a mineral that many types of male butterflies consume before mating.

This butterfly is fast, and not clumsy in flight. It is native to Brazil, but has made a home in Florida and Texas, even venturing as far north as Nebraska. They are capable of producing up to three generations in one year.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
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          Genus: Dryas
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            Species: iulia

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dryas iulia
Other Name(s): The Flame, Flambeau, Julia Heliconican
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 82mm to 92mm (3.22" to 3.62")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange; black; white
Descriptors: bristle; hair; four legs; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 82mm (3.2in) and 92mm (3.6in)
Lo: 82mm
Md: 87mm
Hi: 92mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Julia Longwing Butterfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Julia Longwing Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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