What are these zebra butterflies doing?
Hi,
These zebra butterflies have been here all day, I thought they were just mating. But then my son looked closer and saw there is a pupa in the middle of the group of butterflies. I took some photos, to see the pupa, I had to shoot into the sun. I am guessing they may be shading the pupa or its just a coincidence. I will check tomorrow morning and see what is going on. A few weeks ago I saw a zebra butterfly that had just metamorphosed into an adult and another butterfly was already trying to mate with her, she had not even dried out yet. So I am wondering if these are all males waiting for a female to mature. Attached also is a group of butterflies ready for bed, they sleep all together under the cedar tree and another group sleep under a palm. I have counted over 80 butterflies in the two groups. I believe the reason there are so many is because we have a lot of wild passionflower vine this year. Best Wishes,
Lori McNamara

Hi Lori,
The first thought that went to our mind when we saw this incredible aggregation of Zebra Longwings, Heliconius charithonia, was similar to your thought of males eager to mate with a soon to hatch female. Research on BugGuide indicates a different scenario. According to BugGuide, the Zebra Longwing: “is very gregarious as an adult, roosting in the exact same location for weeks or even months. They have great preference for roosting on dead of leafless branches. ”

Hi, No they are not roosting in the first two photos, zeb1 and 2. The third photo is where they are roosting. They have roosted for years not months in those locations. They roost at night. There are no pupas where they roost. Also they roost with their wings shut. Some of the butterflies around the pupa had their wings open, it is in the daytime. Attached are two more photos taken this morning. The butterflies are all flying about, except for this one clinging to the un-metamorphosed pupa. There were more but I disturbed them when I was taking photos. They are in a very overgrown area with lots of vines. Best Wishes,
Lori McNamara

Hi again Lori,
We were unaware of the roosting aggregations of Zebra Longwings before researching your query. Now we realize that you submitted images of the roosting as well as the mysterious interest they have in the chrysalis. We would put money on the awaiting to mate scenario. We would discount the shading the chrysalis from the sun scenario as being a bit too altruistic for a butterfly. Thanks for the great images.

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