Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. If you see one zebra butterfly, you're likely to see others. These are truly social butterflies. There are often many in a small area, each making the rounds of passion flowers in search of nectar, pollen, and a mate. Prior to emerging as an adult butterfly, females begin producing chemicals that attract males. Two or three male zebras land near a female before she emerges, and wait. Even before the female has completely emerged, one of the waiting males will mate with her. He then smears her with a chemical that he produces that causes other males to go away, thus assuring that only he will father her offspring. As evening approaches, zebra butterflies seek a safe place to spend the night, usually on twigs or leaves. The same roost site will be used night after night and 60 or more zebras may gather at the same roost. If a predator finds the butterflies and eats one, it quickly learns that zebras taste bad and the rest are protected. The zebra butterfly gives new meaning to the old adage: 'There's safety in numbers'. Being alone or on the edge makes a zebra vulnerable; joining a roosting group and pushing your way to the center may provide the greatest safety.
'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.