Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Have you seen a zebra lately? No, not the African mammal, Florida's zebra: Florida's state butterfly. Of course the name 'zebra' comes from our butterfly's bold black and yellow pattern. This black butterfly has two diagonal pale-yellow slashes near the tip of its forewings and long pale-yellow stripes that arc from wing to wing. The zebra butterfly is also known as the 'zebra longwing', another name that fits. This butterfly's narrow wings can stretch up to four inches from tip to tip although they're often closer to three inches. This is a butterfly that is hard to misidentify; without knowing it, many people immediately call it 'the zebra'. This Florida zebra is the northernmost member of a group of tropical butterflies known as the Heliconias. It's especially prevalent in disturbed wetland areas. The zebra butterfly is most common in South Florida, but can be found throughout the state, across the lower Gulf Coast, and south into the West Indies and South America to Ecuador. During the summer, zebra butterflies occasionally make their way northward as far as Nebraska, but they can't survive the cold northern winter.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.