Tiger heliconian butterfly


Tiger heliconian butterfly

Heliconius ismenius

Peru, Huánuco

Z.1983.224.1668

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

Where can you see them?Heliconius ismenius lives from up in the forests of Mexico down to Venezuela and Ecuador in the South. They are very easy to spot as they are brightly coloured and fly pretty slowly in forest clearings.

 What do they eat? Their caterpillars like to eat plants from 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. They collect pollen from the flowers of the Squash, Melons and Pumpkin family (Cucurbitaceae). The can live for up to eight months.

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

Are they endangered? They are relatively common at the moment. The greatest threat to the survival of butterflies is the degradation and destruction of their habitat.

Linked objects: A longwing butterfly; Ethilia longwing butterfly