This trip I’ve seen Men of War on the beach, but this zebra isn’t of the four-legged variety. It’s a beautiful butterfly called the Zebra Longwing Heliconius charithonia and was actually made the official butterfly of Florida in 1996. I wonder if we have an official butterfly of Dorset?… doubtful!
Usually these butterflies spend all their day flitting through the hammocks (woods). I had chased so many to try and get a photograph that I had almost given up. They just never seemed to land! However, when I went to Crane Point (of Golden Orb-web Spider fame) I was able to photograph them feeding.
The butterfly meadow they have planted at Crane Point is a great place for all types of insects, but by far the most dramatic and numerous at this time of year are the Zebras.
The great thing about nature is that when you see something for the first time it automatically sets you on a voyage of discovery. This butterfly turned up a few strange facts.
The adult butterflies are different from most other butterflies in that they eat pollen as well as sipping nectar. By doing this they seem to lengthen their lifespans to approx 3-6 months.
They also roost in groups (I would love to see this) and return to the same roost each night, sometimes as many as 70 roosting on one branch – safety in numbers I guess.
Their mating habits are also a bit strange. Before the female is even out of her crysalis, the males will sometimes pierce the chrysalis and mate with her.
What ever happened to foreplay? I’ve heard of jumping the gun but that’s ridiculous!