The Postman, Heliconius melpomene
The Postman is a widespread species, occurring throughout Central and South America. In the wild, its wing colouration and markings vary depending on the location, with 30 different forms currently recognized.
The Postman looks almost identical to its comimic, the Small Postman (Heliconius erato). The best way to distinguish these two species is to look on the ventral side of the hindwing. The yellow line extends to meet the margin of the wing on the Small Postman (H. erato), whereas on the Postman (H. melpomene), the yellow line does not meet the margin of the wing.
Adults have an erratic flight and prefer sunny forest edges. They feed on both pollen and nectar. After mating, male Postman leave a scent on the females that deters other males. In Central America, females will only lay eggs on Passiflora oerstedii and P. menispermifolia, but in South America females will use any plant in the Passifloraceae family. Postman caterpillars are white with black hairs and spots with an orange head. They feed on passion vine (Passifloraceae). The chrsalids are light brown with gold spots and black spines.Click here to go back to Butterflies Main Page >