|A zebra longwing butterfly fluttering among the passionvines.|
I settled myself and looked for details among the brown and green vines hanging from the branches. I soon spotted a spent chrysalis, then another, and another. A zebra longwing's chrysalis is dull brown with darker brown markings, resembling a dried-up leaf. I cut one down from above my head in order to take a closer look, and it started a vigorous swinging motion in my hand. I nearly dropped it! This chrysalis was still occupied, with its inhabitant attempting to scare me away so I wouldn't eat it.
|Doesn't this chrysalis resemble a dried leaf? Or an alien life form?|
The chrysalis body is about one inch long, with feathery-looking "tails" and four iridescent metallic spots on the concave portion. I'm guessing that I've been seeing the butterflies as they emerge from their chrysalis, and then perhaps when they return to lay eggs on the passionvine.
|Zebra longwings have "zebra stripes" in a distinctive yellow and black pattern, making them easy to identify.|
Some interesting facts about zebra longwing butterflies:
- It is the official Florida State butterfly.
- Zebras fly in slow, lazy, swooping paths.
- They roost in small communities at night, hanging down from a tree branch or similar perch.
- It's larval food (passionvine) makes both the caterpillar and the butterfly taste bad to predators.
- They live longer than many of our other butterflies - sometimes up to six months.
- Caterpillars feed exclusively on members of the passionvine family.
- Zebra butterflies feast on nectar and pollen. Protein in the pollen contributes to their long life span.
- They are brush-footed butterflies, which means that their two front legs look like small brushes. This is how they taste plants.
- They can be found throughout Florida (especially south Florida), and range into Texas, Mexico, and Central and South America.
- The caterpillars are ferocious-looking: a white body with black spines all over, and orange-brown feet. The spines are harmless.