Friday, May 7, 2010

Two heliconians and a cattleheart

This magnificent creature is a Heart-spotted Heliconian, or Heliconius hecale. It is found from Mexico to Colombia. I photographed it yesterday afternoon, in the botanical garden of San Salvador.

Heliconians, sometimes called longwings, are part of a subfamily of mainly tropical butterflies, formerly considered a distinct family, but now united with the fritillaries in the subfamily Heliconiinae. Together with fritillaries, crescents, checkerspots, milkweed butterflies, satyrs and many other subfamilies, heliconians belong to the family of so-called brushfoots (Nymphalidae). Like all members in that family, the front pair of legs are greatly reduced and covered with short hairs. In the field, it looks like they only have four instead of six legs, like all other insects.

Here's another shot of the same individual.

Also nectaring there was this heliconian, Acting Heliconian, or Eueides vibilia.

The larvae of most heliconians feed on passion vines, which contain toxic chemicals. This causes the adult butterflies to be unpalatable to predators, such as birds. Note that this particular individual shows some damage in the left forewing. Did a bird peck at it, or did it damage its wing in some other way?

The plant it's feeding on is common in Central America and a favorite among nectaring butterflies.

Cattlehearts are not brushfoots, and are more closely related to swallowtails. This is a Pink-checked Cattleheart, Parides eurimedes, a fairly common Central American species found from Mexico through northern Colombia.

As far as my computer problems are concerned I'm not out of the woods yet, but I am somewhat operational now with a largely empty new hard drive.

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