Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the February 19, 2012 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

It's getting hard to find new species, and the ones I do find usually are little brownish or blackish skippers that only truly passionate folks could care about. Therefore, what a treat the other day when a new three-inch-across (8cm) beauty showed up, shown above. I was even granted a view from the side, as seen below:

Erato Heliconian, HELICONIUS ERATO PETIVERANA, side view

Bea quickly IDed this one as a Crimson-patched Longwing, sometimes called Erato Heliconian. It's HELICONIUS ERATO PETIVERANA, rarely straying as far north as southern Texas, but mostly from Mexico to Brazil. Its caterpillars eat passion-vines, or Passifloras.

The above technical name has three parts because petiverana is the subspecies occurring here. About 27 subspecies are recognized and some look very different from ours. For example, in some the red bar is much wider; in others the white streak hardly exists.

Males of this species seem particularly eager to mate, and possessive. Sometimes they mate with females as the females emerge from their chrysalises. After mating, the male daubs a repellent chemical on the female's abdomen to keep other males from mating with her.