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Zebra Butterfly

Zebra Longwing on Blue Porterweed, med res, Eagle Lakes, 2016-05-07.jpg

The Zebra Longwing is a butterfly that lives up to its name – it has long, narrow, black wings that are strikingly crossed with pale yellow stripes – markings that are a warning signal to predators that try to eat it. Zebra Longwing butterflies not only drink the nectar of Passionflowers, but they consume some of its pollen – which endows them with cyanide compounds that make them noxious to predators. This relationship also promotes their communal roosting behavior – giving truth to the adage that there is safety in numbers. If a predator eats one Zebra Longwing, it quickly learns to avoid others. Being in the center of a group provides safety for this butterfly.

Florida has several species of Passionflowers -- and the leaves of all provide food for Zebra Longwing caterpillars as well as nectar and pollen for the adults. Because of its beauty, slow, graceful flight, and distribution throughout the state, the Florida legislature designated the Zebra Longwing as “Florida’s State butterfly” in 1996.