Costa Rica: Postman Butterfly

Another one of Costa Rica’s colorful butterflies is the Postman Butterfly. We saw them on a frequent basis around our villa. It was first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae.

A forest bordered the rear of our villa and we often saw this colorful butterfly in the early morning when the sun was shining directly on the boundary. This was certainly my favorite time of the day. The Postman Butterfly (Heliconius melpomene) is one of the most commonly found butterflies in the Heliconius genus, the Postman Butterfly is known for its vivid coloration. There are twenty-nine identified subspecies, with many of them mimicking other Heliconius species as an adaptive feature (Müllerian mimicry).

Caterpillar: The mature larva is about 0.5 inches in size, with a white body marked with black spots and long spines. The orange head has two black horns, while there is also a yellow anal plate. They remain solitary or form small groups of 2 to 3 individuals.

Pupa: Chrysalis is light brown with golden spots on the back, and about ten black spines protruding from the ventral side. The thorax or mid-portion is distinctly curved, with the antennae having multiple short black spines.

Adult Color and Appearance: The basic body color is black, with distinct red/orange, yellow or white bands on the forewings, and sometimes on the hindwings. There can be a single red vertical band on each forewing, while some subspecies may have red blotches instead of a band. The hindwings may be entirely black or may have a white band running vertically.

Distribution: Common in Mexico, but found throughout Central and South America.

Habitat: Sunny open lands, forest edges, pine and pine-oak forests, often near slow-flowing streams and rivers.

The lifespan of adults: Believed to be about 6 to 9 months.

Host plants: Passionflower species (Passiflora oerstedii) and (Passiflora menispermifolia).

Adult diet: Pollen, flower nectar, ripe/rotting fruits.

You can read more about the various animals we encountered here. Please your own personal observations or encounters in the comments.

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