Image Size: 10″ x 7-3/4″
With a broad range from Central America to southern Brazil, the Small Postman is one of the more common butterflies observed in the Amazon basin. Although this butterfly displays the red stripes above, the markings may be variable with the red markings reduced to either the anterior or posterior wings or absent. Its range overlaps that of another closely related species, the Postman (Heliconius melpomene), which is similar in appearance, but differs slightly in morphology and behavior. These species share their respective tropical rainforest microhabitats. H. erato is normally found flying close to the ground in the outer margins of the forest and along open trails, while H. melpomene is more secretive and found in the deeper forest.
Like other members of the genus Heliconius, the Small Postman feed as larvae on passion vines and have the ability to store and manufacture toxic compounds, not only in an attempt to ward off predators but occasionally as a response to a shift in the host plant chemistry.
Text by Jacqueline Miller, Ph. D., Associate Curator, Allyn Museum of Entomology, Florida Museum of Natural History and Former President, The Lepidopterists’ Society
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