Caterpillars, keep off!


In this war, the passion flower vines fight back. Poison is just the beginning. Here are some other means that passion flower vines use to get rid of Heliconid caterpillars.

disguises - Some passion flower vines produce leaves that look like the leaves of other kinds of plants. If the butterflies think they aren't passion flower vines, they won't try to lay their eggs here.

guards - On occasion, passion flower vines get ants to guard them. The vines supply a special nectar that the ants like to eat. In exchange, the ants pick off any young Heliconids that develop on the vines' leaves.

fake eggs - A passion flower may grow imitation eggs. When the butterfly comes to lay her eggs, she thinks that the leaf is already occupied...and goes off to look for an empty vine.

weapons - Some passion flower species grow hooked hairs on the surface of their leaves. These hairs kill the caterpillars.

dumpers - Since Heliconids like to lay their eggs on the tendrils of the vine, some vines grow special extra weak tendrils. When an egg laid on one begins to develop and becomes heavier, the dumper tendril can't hold its weight anymore, and the egg falls off.


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