Viceroy Butterfly in the Everglades
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – BIG CYPRESS WMA, FL
The Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus) is a North American butterfly with a range from the Northwest Territories along the eastern edges of the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada mountains, southwards into central Mexico.
Its wings feature an orange and black pattern, and over most of its range it is a Müllerian mimic with the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Wingspan is between 53 and 81 mm. The Monarch is bigger and doesn’t have the postmedian black line that runs across the veins on the hindwing. In Florida, Georgia, and the Southwest, Viceroys share the pattern of the Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus) and in Mexico they share the pattern of the Soldier Butterfly (Danaus eresimus). In all three areas, the Viceroy populations mimic the coloration of the local Danaus species. It was originally believed that the Viceroy was a Batesian mimic of the three other species, in that it was presumably edible or only mildly unpalatable to predators, but this has since proven not to be true.
The caterpillar feeds on trees in the willow family Salicaceae, including willows (Salix), and poplars and cottonwoods (Populus). The caterpillars sequester the salicylic acid in their bodies, which makes them bitter, and upsets predators’ stomachs. As further protection, the caterpillars, as well as their chrysalis stage, resemble bird droppings. Adults are strictly diurnal, they fly preferentially in the late morning and early afternoon.
The Viceroy was named the state butterfly of Kentucky in 1990.