The Small Postman (Heliconius erato) is a small butterfly. It is an insect, called a heliconid. It is also known as the Red Postman or the Crimson-Patched Longwing.
The Small Postman has black wings with red-orange patches and white patches on its forewings (front wings) and red-orange stripes on its hindwings (back wings). It has long antennae and a black body.
It has a wingspan of 6-8 centimetres (2-3 inches).
The Small Postman is native to Texas in North America and in Argentina and Paraguay in South America. It prefers tropical rain forests.
The adult butterfly sips pollen from flowers, using its long proboscis. The caterpillar (larva stage) eats plant leaves. Its predators include birds, lizards, monkeys, and praying mantids, but its bad taste deters many predators.
The Small Postman roost at night in a group on twigs or plants.
The female lays 1-4 yellow eggs a day for several days, which hatch into caterpillars. As the caterpillar matures, it pupates into a chrysalis, similar to a cocoon. Adult butterflies emerge from the chrysalis.
It lives, on average, for 20 days.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM