Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 3 - 3½ inches (7.4 - 8.9 cm).  Elongated black wings with yellow stripes.  Closed wings are also black-and- yellow striped and also contain small red basal spots.

ID Tip: Black and yellow stripes on elongated forewings

Egg: Yellow, ribbed, and elongated.  Generally laid in small clusters on new growth and tendrils of host plant.

Caterpillar: White with small black spots and many long black spines

Chrysalis: Two projections that look like jaws extend from head. The slender, golden brown chrysalis is adorned with a few silver markings as well as short dark bristles.  Males may surround chrysalides of females in order to be the first to mate.  Sometimes they  actually break the chrysalis in their zeal to reach the emerging female butterfly.

Zebra Longwings should be sought in Alabama’s southern counties, particularly near forest edges that support Yellow Passion Flower vines.  The butterflies typically flit slowly through dappled shade. In years without hard freezes, populations may remain intact for a few months, but generally these butterflies must expand into Alabama from Florida.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat. The High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Chambers, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 20 - Baldwin - 8/21/2020
  • 20 - Geneva - 11/4/2020
  • 17 - Baldwin - 8/22/2016
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 1 2 4 6 16 7 8 31 45 14 10 22 18 20 30 21 38 58 24 3 24 5 3 1 1


Woodlands near the coast.

Zebra Longwing
Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)
© Sara Bright
Yellow Passionflower

Host and Nectar Plants

Various passion flowers (Passiflora spp.) are used throughout its range.

In addition to the plants highlighted in blue below, this ornamental passionflower, which is native to central and south Florida, has also been documented as a host in Alabama: 

  • Corky Stem Passion Flower (Passiflora suberosa)

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Zebra Longwing
Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)
© Sara Bright
Yellow Passionflower
Zebra Longwing
Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)
© Sara Bright
Purple Passionflower/Maypop

Landscaping Ideas

In Alabama's southern-most counties, including Passion Flower vines in the landscape may provide caterpillar food for Zebra Longwings. These vines need support, such as an arbor.  Alternatively, they may be allowed to clamor up a tree.  Like Zebra Longwings, Yellow Passion Flower prefers somewhat shady spots.  The small, yellow flowers occur near the top, where the vine reaches sunlight.