Viceroy Butterfly

From Ohio History Central
Viceroy Butterfly.jpg
An image of the Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) look almost identical to the monarch butterfly. The identifying difference is that viceroys have a black line across the hindwing and white dots in the black band along the edge. Their wingspan reaches two and a half to three and three-eighths inches. Because they resemble the foul-tasting monarch it has few, if any, predators.

Viceroys are found in habitats that include moist open or shrubby areas such as willow thickets, wet meadows, and lake and swamp edges Males perch or patrol for females around caterpillar host plants, including willow, poplar and cottonwood trees. Females will lay eggs on the tip of the leaves. They will lay only two or three eggs per plant. When the caterpillars emerge, they will eat the eggshell and then begin at night to feed on catkins and leaves of the host trees.

Young caterpillars construct a ball made of leaf bits, animal waste and silk, hanging off the leaf on which they are feeding. Scientists believe this hanging ball may distract predators because they look like bird droppings. Older caterpillars will roll a leaf tip in order to make a shelter for the winter.

After the completion of metamorphosis, adult viceroys emerge and begin to feed.In the spring, before flowers are available their food consists of aphid honeydew, carrion, animal waste and rotting fungus. Later, asters, goldenrod, joe-pye weed, and thistle make up their diet.

Viceroy butterflies can be found throughout most of Ohio. However, in other areas of the United States, it is threatened because of a loss of habitat.

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