Emergency Longwing Butterfly Care Heliconius hecale


Aug 6, 2014
An old friend of mine called me up out of the blue. Apparently, the New York Museum of Natural History has an escapee!

It appears to be a Heliconius hecale.

The butterfly apparently blended in with his orange jacket and went unnoticed. It was later discovered on the New York Subway and presumed dead. He folded it up into a napkin and brought it home, but discovered it was indeed alive (I assume it seemed dead from the cold).

In any event, he put it in a container with an orange which it appears to be sipping at. At the same time, it doesn't seem as active as I'd expect a butterfly to be, but it is night.

I'm planning on calling up the museum to either find care or return the butterfly if I can, but I am located in south Jersey and it may be some time before I can make the trip to New York City.

What should I do in the meantime? I have only significant experience with arachnids and the "order away" butterflies like painted ladies and such. Treat it like I know nothing! I'd like to make sure this little guy/gal recovers.

So far as I can tell it is still a tad sluggish from the cold, and one leg appears not to work right. it sits with its wings open, it hasn't attempted flight, though its wings have trembled.

I am keeping it in a large critter keeper with the orange, some damp paper towels, and a dry paper towel hung from the side for a perch. I have also put a heating pad near the critterkeeper to be safe as far as temperature is concerned. the pad no longer sticks, but I placed the critter keepr on an old locker shelf thing, and only left half the heat pad under the critter keeper. I assume the grills will prevent the heat from getting trapped.

let me know what it needs! Normally I'd research it myself but this was a late night surprise.


Sep 28, 2011
What ever happened here?
Putting a slice of fruit in there with it was a perfect move, as well as keeping it warm and somewhat humid.