Limenitis archippus

Summary 5

The viceroy (Limenitis archippus) is a North American butterfly whose upper side is orange and black, resembling the Monarch (Danaus plexippus), except the Viceroy has a black line across the hind wing and a single row of white dots in the black marginal band.

The Viceroy is a Mullerian mimic of the Monarch, and it is also distasteful. See Mimicry section.

Description 6

The Viceroy is well-known for its mimetic resemblance to the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). The black median line across the hindwing is the quickest way to distinguish it from the Monarch. These two species can even be separated on the wing by their distinctive flight: Monarchs have a leisurely, floating flight and hold their wings at an angle above the body when gliding, while Viceroys hold their wings in a flat plane when gliding, a behaviour characteristic of the genus Limenitis.

Larva Description 5

Larva has a hump-backed body, olive green or brown with pinkish-white saddle and two short dark spiny horns on second thoracic segment; conspicuous "ankle bracelets" of pale spines above each proleg; dorsal spine clusters atop bumps on thorax and abdomen. Larvae, as well as their chrysalis stage, resemble bird droppings.

Larval Host Plants 7

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, flying preferentially in the late morning and early afternoon. Adult viceroys nectar on milkweeds, thistles and other common flowers.

Mimicry 7

Recent research has argued that the viceroy may be unpalatable to avian predators. If that is the case, then the viceroy butterfly displays Müllerian mimicry, and both viceroy and monarch are co-mimics of each other.

Some literature suggests that the queen-viceroy may not be a good model-mimic pair for Batesian mimicry. Experimental evidence has shown that avian predators express aversion to the queen butterfly after being exposed to viceroys. That the avian predators avoided the queen butterfly implies that the queen does not serve as a model and the viceroy as a parasitic mimic; rather, they may be Müllerian co-mimics.

When avian predators were exposed to butterfly abdomen without the wings, many avian predators rejected the viceroy after a single peck. Furthermore, they exhibited distress behavior similar to that displayed when eating other, known unpalatable species.

Interestingly, when palatability was measured by looking at avian responses to butterfly abdomen, it was found that the viceroy butterfly was significantly more unpalatable than the queen. The queen-viceroy relationship is too asymmetrical for them to be considered real co-mimics of each other. Instead, mathematical models have suggested that the queen enjoys the benefits of mimicry at the viceroy's expense, and that the model-mimic dynamic between the two should be switched.

In light of this new interpretation, it has been speculated that different food plants in different geographical locations influence the palatability of the viceroy. Further investigation is needed to clarify the relationship between the viceroy and its purported models.

GTM Occurrence 5

The Viceroy is considered an uncommon species at the GTM. It occurs along all transects and is most common along the Marsh Pond Overlook (Transect B). Most observations are in the open habitat along Transect A. Only a few observations have been made along the forest Transects with Transect C having the most individuals. This species occurs from April to October with peak abundance in April and May. There have been 22 specimens observed as of December 28, 2015.

Distribution 5

The Viceroy has a broad range from the Northwest Territories south along the eastern edges of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains to central Mexico, east through all the eastern United States.

Habitat 8

Viceroys prefer open or slightly shrubby areas that are wet or near water. These include wet meadows, marshes, ponds and lakes, railroad tracks, and roadsides.

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; mountains

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Comments: Eastward almost any habitat with willows or small aspens which are the main larval foodplants. Habitats include prairies and dry barrens with small willows as well as wetlands. Westward more riparian and only around seeps or watercourses in arid regions.

Nature serve conservation status 9

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread and common; adapts to some disturbance.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Benny Mazur, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  2. (c) Richard Crook, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  3. (c) John Flannery, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  4. (c) GTMResearchReserve, all rights reserved, uploaded by GTMResearchReserve
  5. (c) GTMResearchReserve, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)
  6. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) University of Alberta Museums, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  7. Adapted by GTMResearchReserve from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  8. (c) The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  9. (c) NatureServe, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),

More Info

iNat Map

Category name uncommon