Nature: Butterflies and Moths

The Zebra 斑马纹蝶 (Heliconiidae, the Heliconians)

The Zebra Butterfly’s petticoat-like colors, and hesitant, mincing flight make you think of a princess, gayly but shyly emerging from her room for her first ball. The flight is indeed totally unlike that of any other butterfly north of the Mexican border for the wings appear to beat so slowly that you wonder how the butterfly stays afloat in the warm summer air. But try to catch it and suddenly it takes up frantic movements that waft it into some thick brush where it disappears. The magic camouflage mixture of stripes of golden sunlight and dark shadow look exactly like its wings.

If you watch a Zebra butterfly quietly for some time, you might see a very strange and wonderful thing, a bird diving to eat it from some high perch, only to swerve away in mid-air and leave this apparently helpless creature alone. Why? Capture a zebra and hold it to your nose. Soon you will know by the pungent, aromatic and medicinal odor that this butterfly must have a poisonous taste. Monkeys offered Zebra butterflies to eat, make faces and throw the insects away.

The Zebra butterfly is really a visitor from tropical America, where similar butterflies, but with many different colors, swarm in millions. It comes only into the southern border states from Florida to Texas, sometimes straying as far north as Kansas and South Carolina. The caterpillar feeds on the Passion Flower, glowing in purple beauty, while the chrysalid, looking like a dried up leaf, has the power to make a strange sound, like a ghostly door creaking in a haunted house.

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