Saturday, January 22, 2011

Viceroy Butterfly

(Image Source)
Phylum : Arthropoda
Class : Insecta
Order : Lepidoptera
Superfamily : Papilionoidea
Family : Nymphalidae
Subfamily : Limenitidinae
Genus : Limenitis 
Species:  archippus 

Length : 2.5-3.5in (6.5-9cm) wingspan

IUCN Status : Not listed

I mentioned mimicry briefly in my Butterfly photo post, so I figured I would expand upon it a little more with today's animal. There are actually two ways that butterflies mimic other butterfly species. The first of these is known as Batesian mimicry, and this is when a non-toxic species looks like a toxic species in order to stay safe. The second type, Muellerian mimicry, is when two equally toxic species mimic each other, benefiting one another. The Viceroy Butterfly is a Muellerian mimic, and if you couldn't already tell, their partner in crime is the Monarch Butterfly.

Viceroys and Monarchs looks incredibly similar, with the small difference being a black bar that runs horizontally across the Viceroy's lower wings. The two species are not closely related, and belong to different subfamilies. However, both are toxic when consumed, so the similar coloration keeps predators from eating both of them.

(Image Source)
Viceroys and Monarchs share a great deal of their range. They are both found through North America, inhabiting fields, swamps, and marshes. They often live near Willow, Cottenwood, and Poplar trees, as these are where they lay their eggs. Caterpillars eat the leaves of these trees upon hatching, and their coloration camouflages them to look like bird droppings. Adult Viceroy Butterflies feed off of nectar, and have modified mouth parts that can reach down into plans in order to feed.

Viceroy Butterflies are the state Butterfly of Kentucky.

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