Limenitis archippus

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Geographic Range

The viceroy ranges from central Canada through the eastern United States, into the Cascade Mountains and northern Mexico.

Habitat

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.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

In areas of the viceroy's range where monarchs are common, the viceroy tends to mimic the pattern of the monarch (Danaaus plexippus) with black striping and orange areas similar to a monarch. The viceroy can be distinguished from the monarch, however, by one row of white spots within the black fore and hind wing bands. In areas inhabited by the Queen (Danaus glippus), the white spotting of the viceroy becomes less noticeable, and the orange coloration is replaced by a deep mahogany brown.

Reproduction

Mating occurs in the afternoon, and the female is the egg carrier. She deposits one egg onto the tip of a leaf and chooses only leaves that have not been eaten by other insects. She deposits about three eggs per sapling.

Behavior

The viceroy has a slow flap and glide flight pattern. Males exhibit a perch-patrol behavior, in which they perch on the ground or low vegetation for a short time, then patrol a 20 m distance to another perch. They continue this behavior back and forth through the same area. If two males meet in the same area, they will abruptly soar 50 m or more into the air.

Food Habits

Larvae feed on various types of willows and poplars. Viceroys produce three generations per year, and the food habits of each generation differs. The first brood consume carrion, decaying fungi, and animal dung. Later generations are more often observed at flowers of plants, such as joe-pye weed, aster, Canada thistle, shepherd's needle, and goldenrod. This difference is likely due to the colder, wetter conditions experienced by the first generation.

Conservation Status

The viceroy has a wide range and is not threatened.

Other Comments

The scientific community is divided on whether the viceroy is a Batesian mimic (a butterfly that is palatable, but mimics an unpalatable species to avoid predation) or a Mullerian mimic (a mimicry involving two unpalatable species). A recent study has shown the viceroy is less palatable than either of the species it mimics, the monarch and queen butterflies, meaning those species most likely benefit more from the mimicry than the viceroy.

Contributors

Jennifer Roof (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

References

Opler, Paul A. and Krizek, George O. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. The John Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Ritland, David B. and Brower, Linccoln P. "The Viceroy is not a Batesian Mimic". Nature. Vol.350, 1991.