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The Zebra Longwing butterfly is a small, bad-tasting butterfly whose wing camouflage makes it hard to catch. Its yellow stripes make it hard to tell if the butterfly is coming or going. This flying insect lives in tropical areas of southern North America, the West Indies, Central America, and northern South America.

Egg: The Zebra Longwing begins its life cycle as an egg that is the size of a pin head. Five to fifteen eggs are laid on passion vine leaves.

Caterpillar (larva): The white caterpillar has long black spines on each segment and a pale yellow head. It eats passion vine leaves. The caterpillar eats almost continually until it pupates. As the larva grows, it sheds its exoskeleton (this is called molting). The period between molts is called an instar.

Chrysalis (pupa): When the caterpillar has grown to the right size, it pupates. It hangs upside-down from a leaf or branch, attaching itself with a silken string. An adult forms from the caterpillar, whose internal structure changes completely. The chrysalis becomes almost transparent when it is about to split open. This stage lasts from 10 to 14 days.

Adult: When an adult emerges from the split chrysalis, it hangs upside down and pumps blood into its four wings, inflating them.Then it waits for its delicate wings to dry. It can fly a few hours after emerging.

The adult Zebra Longwing is mostly black with yellow stripes and spots. The adult has a 2 - 4 inch (5 - 10 cm) wingspan. Adults sip sweet nectar and pollen from lantana and shepherd's needle. Adults mate immediately after emerging. The Zebra Longwing butterfly makes a creaking sound when it is alarmed.

Classification: Order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Family Heliconiidae (tropical butterflies associated with passion vines), Genus Heliconius, Species charitonius.

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