Four species of Admiral butterflies are found in North America, but this number is not agreed upon by authorities. The number may be interpreted as few as two species or as many as five or six. Due to species hybridization, it is difficult to define the number of species. Some species tend to hybridize where their ranges overlap. This may lead to entire populations of hybrid butterflies in these “blend” zones. In Eurasia, there are one or more species that are distinct from those found in North America. (Bartlett, 2012)

Geographic Range

Species of the genus Limenitis, known as admiral butterflies, are found throughout North America and temperate Eurasia. (Bartlett, 2012)


Admiral butterflies are found in sunny areas of wooded areas like forests and mountains. Caterpillars of this genus are most often found near their host plants. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Systematic and Taxonomic History

American species may be classified into a genus called Basilarchia in some literature. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • Synapomorphies
    • Basilarchia

Physical Description

Admiral butterflies are large butterflies that don’t have tails nor additional appendages on their wings. Coloring between species of this genus is distinct. They may be confused with the species queens, members of the genera sisters and monarchs, and the family called swallowtails. (Bartlett, 2012)

The caterpillars of the various species look very similar and can be hard to differentiate. Caterpillars look rough and have large bumps. They have two large bumpy horns. Resembling bird droppings, caterpillars are dark brown or green in color. They may have spots of white or cream color. Swallowtail caterpillars may look similar, but they lack the horns. (Bartlett, 2012)


Admiral butterflies, like other butterflies, undergo complete metamorphosis. Members of this genus overwinter as larvae. They build hibernaculum, which is like a cocoon made from part of a rolled leaf. (Bartlett, 2012)


Admirals breed seasonally and use sexual reproduction. Females lay eggs. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Most adults live from late spring to early summer. They produce one generation per year. In the south, multiple generations may occur. Members of this genus overwinter as larvae. (Bartlett, 2012)

Communication and Perception

Admiral butterflies communicate through visual and chemical manners. They utilize vision and chemical methods for perception.

Food Habits

Larvae are laid on and feed on host plants. They prefer members of the family Salicaceae, such as poplars and willows. They may also consume members of the family Rosaceae, including apple, serviceberry, and cherry. Occasionally, they have been observed feeding on alder, birch, oak, lindens, and vaccinium. Adults feed on nectar. (Bartlett, 2012)


Some species of admiral butterflies utilize Batesian mimicry. Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) are well-known mimics of monarch butterflies. Red-spotted purple or white admirals (Limenitis arthemis) are mimics of pipevine swallowtails. Monarch butterflies and pipevine swallowtails are unpalatable for predators. Members of this genus are eaten by predatory birds like blue jays (Platt, et al., 1971)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • mimic
  • Known Predators

Ecosystem Roles

Adult admiral butterflies are pollinators that feed on nectar. Some species of this genus are mimics of unpalatable butterflies. Caterpillars feed on the host plants on which they are laid. (Bartlett, 2012; Porter, 1989)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Adult admiral butterflies are pollinators.

  • Positive Impacts
  • pollinates crops

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No information about negative economic impact for humans was found.

Conservation Status

Some species of this genus, such as viceroys, are of conservation concern due to loss of habitat. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



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


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.


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


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


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.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


uses sight to communicate


Austin, G., D. Murphy. 1987. ZOOGEOGRAPHY OF GREAT BASIN BUTTERFLIES: PATTERNS OF DISTRIBUTION AND DIFFERENTIATION. The Great Basin Naturalist, 47(2): 186-201. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

Bartlett, T. 2012. "Genus Limenitis - Admirals & Viceroy" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

Platt, A., R. Coppinger, L. Brower. 1971. Demonstration of the Selective Advantage of Mimetic Limenitis Butterflies Presented to Caged Avian Predators. Society for the Study of Evolution, 25(4): 692-701. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

Porter, A. 1989. Genetic Evidence for Reproductive Isolation between Hybridizing Limenitis Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Southwestern New Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist, 122(2): 275-280. Accessed July 31, 2020 at