Butterflies of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance

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Once on a species account page, clicking on the "View PDF" link will show the flight data for that species, for each of the three regions of the state.
Other information, such as high counts and earliest/latest dates, can also been seen on the PDF page.

Related Species in NYMPHALIDAE:
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Common NameZebra Longwing by Jim Parnell => Wilmington, New Hanover Co. - 13 Sep 2013
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Click to enlarge
[Google Images]     BoA [Images ]
Scientific NameHeliconius charithonia
Link to BAMONA species account.
MapClick on a county for list of all database records for the species in that county.
DistributionDISTRIBUTION: Sparse migrant from the south, on very rare occasions actually laying eggs in the state and producing a new progeny of adults (as in 2008 and 2020) before frost and other cold weather sets in to kill life stages. The records are widely scattered in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain (primarily the southern coast), plus several in the mountains (Madison County). In 2008, a remarkable outbreak of the species occurred along Bogue Banks in Carteret County, and it is likely that adults dispersing from that county were responsible for new records in neighboring Craven and Onslow counties. In 2020, there was an outbreak in upstate SC and the NC southern Piedmont; a remarkable 12 new NC county records were made!
AbundanceABUNDANCE: Very rare stray along the southern coast, north to Carteret County. Casual elsewhere in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, though in 2020 it was "rare" in parts of the state.
FlightFLIGHT PERIOD: The dates fall between early June and mid-November, though most sightings are from mid-August into November.
HabitatHABITAT: Most likely to be seen around the margins of maritime forests and thickets near the coast (its usual habitat in FL). It can also occur in wooded residential areas and gardens. Not likely in wide open habitats such as fields.
PlantsFOOD AND NECTAR PLANTS: Foodplants are passionflower (Passiflora) species. Females were seen ovipositing on both P. lutea and P. incarnata at Fort Macon State Park in 2008. The species has been seen nectaring on butterfly-bush (Buddleja spp.) and Lantana (Lantana strigocamara) in yards in NC.
CommentsCOMMENTS: This species has been reported from all coastal SC counties, including Horry (adjacent to NC). Thus, it is not a surprise that it has been seen in NC. One was photographed (photo on the internet) in Orange County, by Randy Emmitt, in October 1997; this apparently was the first tangible documentation of the Zebra Longwing for North Carolina. In 2003, we received a remarkable 11 records, and surprisingly 10 of these were from the Piedmont. The 2020 season, mentioned above, surpassed even that!

On June 19, 2008, Randy Newman (ranger at Fort Macon State Park) saw one or two adults at the park, and over the next few months a number of other butterfliers made visits to the park to see them. Not only were 20 or more adults seen at the park, but observers found them at several other maritime forests on Bogue Banks, even westward toward Emerald Isle. Not surprisingly, a few adults were seen on the Carteret County mainland, and they were seen as far north as Craven County and west to Onslow County. This "outbreak" was not detected along the coast farther to the south, and it must have started with a single gravid female laying eggs at the state park in early summer. It seems highly unlikely that a good number of adults were simply blown to Carteret County from FL or GA, for example, as some butterflies should have been found farther south along the coast. Sadly, no "offspring" survived the winter of 2008-2009, as no adults were reported from anywhere in the state in 2009. The 2020 outbreak inland seemed to have started in upstate SC, and one or more gravid females there probably created the plethora of adults that moved northward into NC in the fall season.

NOTE: In 2021, there was a controversy about observations of this species at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington. Thankfully it was determined that this is one of a handful of native species that is raised in a butterfly house there (from chrysalids), and it is assumed that at least one gravid adult female escaped and produced a progeny of several dozen adults a few months later. Thus, records from these gardens have not been included in the database.
State RankSZN
State Status
Global RankG5
Federal Status
SynonymHeliconius charithonius, Heliconia charitonius
Other NameZebra, Zebra Heliconian


Links to other butterfly galleries: [Cook] [Lynch] [Pippen] [Pugh]
Photo Gallery for Zebra Longwing
Photo by: Randy Newman
Comment: Fort Macon State Park, Carteret Co.; 19 June 2008
Zebra Longwing - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Martha Girolami
Comment: October 2017, Chatham Co.
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: John Ennis
Comment: 2013-Sep-23. Elwell's Ferry on the Cape Fear River, Bladen County
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Jeff Lewis
Comment: Manteo, Dare County
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Jim Parnell
Comment: Wilmington, New Hanover County
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Randy Newman
Comment: chrysalis
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Ricky Davis
Comment: Carteret Co., 2008-July-13
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Ricky Davis
Comment: Fort Macon State Park, Carteret Co., 2008-July-13. female ovipositing
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Ricky Davis
Comment: Fort Macon State Park, Carteret Co., 2008-July-13 - late instar
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Randy Newman
Comment: Fort Macon State Park, Carteret Co., 11 July 2008 - middle instar
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge
Photo by: Randy Newman
Comment: Fort Macon State Park, Carteret Co., 11 July 2008 - early instar
Zebra Heliconian - Click to enlarge