Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
The Viceroy Butterfly is one of the most popular and widely-known butterflies of the world, and can even be identified by many people who are not butterfly enthusiasts. However, because of their similarity with another popular species, the monarch butterfly, it is often confused with the latter. The viceroys are found in a wide range across North America, flying usually in the late morning and early afternoon between May and October.
Description and Identification
The mature larva is white, brown, black, and olive green in coloration with two greenish bumps on the thorax, and a pair of spines close to the head. As an adaptation for camouflage, it mimics a bird dropping. It is difficult to see them in the wild since they feed at night.
The viceroy chrysalis is white, brown, and black, and also mimics a bird dropping. They possess a large brownish bump on the abdomen.
Sexual Dimorphism: No visible differences
Color and Appearance: When the wings are open, the dorsal side shows an orange base with black patterns (quite much like the Monarch). Additionally, the viceroys have a black line across the secondary wings along with a single row of dots in white by the black marginal band. When the wings are closed, the ventral side shows a mirror image of the upper side, except that, the hind wings have a white to a lighter base color.
Average wingspan: 6.6 to 7.6 cm (2.6 to 3 in)
Flight pattern: Average speed
Pale green or pale yellow in coloration, laid singly at the tip of the host plant leaf
|Distribution||Common in most of the contiguous US, as also in some parts of Canada and Mexico|
|Habitat||Marshes, meadows, and swamps and other humid areas with trees like willow, aspen, and poplar|
|Lifespan of adults||3 to 4 weeks|
|Weight||Up to 0.65 grams|
|Predators||Birds, frogs, spiders, bats, lizards, and small snakes|
|Host plants||Trees belonging to the willow family like willows (Salix), poplars and cottonwoods (Populus)|
|Adult diet||Flower nectar (herbivorous)|
Did You Know?
- By evolution, the caterpillars have the ability to store salicylic acid in their bodies, making them bitter, as also upsets the stomachs of the predators.
- The species got its name ‘viceroy’ as a contrast to the ‘monarch’, as also, to differentiate it from the latter, which is somewhat larger in size than it.
- The orange-type Viceroys naturally mimic the monarch butterfly, whereas, the reddish brown-type viceroys (only the Florida population) mimic the queen and the soldier butterflies.
- Research conducted in the 1990s suggests that the viceroy and the monarch are examples of ‘Mullerian mimicry’ where two equally toxic (poisonous) species mimic each other to the benefit of each.
- The viceroy was named the state butterfly of Kentucky in 1990.