Ethilia longwing butterfly

Ethilia longwing butterfly

Heliconius ethilla



These gorgeous bright butterflies aren’t worried about standing out in the rainforest as they are toxic and their bright colours warn predators of this. Other groups of butterflies which aren’t toxic have evolved to look like them so they are less likely to be eaten.

Where can you see them? They live in the tropical forests of Panama down to the south of Brazil. You may see them roosting alone or in small groups in the tree canopy.

What do they eat? Their caterpillars like to eat plants from the Passion flower family (Passifloraceae). Most butterflies just take nectar, if they feed at all. The adults of Heliconius butterflies are very unusual because they eat the pollen. Pollen is a vital source of protein that allows these butterflies to produce more eggs, make toxic chemicals to put off predators and also helps them live longer. Adults may live for up to eight months.  

Are they important? The Heliconid butterflies are important pollinators for many of the plants they visit to gather nectar and pollen.

Are they endangered? They are not currently endangered. The greatest threat to the survival of butterflies is the degradation and destruction of their habitat.

Linked objects: A longwing butterfly; Ethilia longwing butterfly