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The Viceroy

Posted on Aug 13, 2014

The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) has probably fooled you before. It gets us all at one point or another. Monarch butterflies come to mind much more readily for nearly everyone even as their population has plummeted in recent years. In comparison to the Monarch the Viceroy has a smaller, leaner and more aerodynamic appearance to me. The key distinguishing feature is a postmedian black line across the veins on the hindwing which the Monarch lacks. The Viceroy also flies in a lazier, drifting fashion with the wings often spread horizontally, almost coasting along for small stretches.

Research into the species has led to the current conclusion that it is a Müllerian mimic with the Monarch in that both butterfly species share a similar look and poisonous taste to would-be predator birds. Viceroys are moderately skittish in my experience but I was able to snap a few photos of this recent visitor to RTPI.

Viceroy 0037

Viceroy 0070

Viceroy 0234

Viceroy 0240

August is a great month for all sorts of butterflies and when the weather is right (as it has NOT been lately here in the Northeast) you can find a terrific diversity of species and many individuals feeding in all sorts of habitats. This is getting to be the prime time of year to find Monarchs on the move to the south as well. Let’s get outside and see how many we can count across our region when we’re at home in the yard or garden or at the shore for a beach vacation – we should hopefully be able to find them anywhere and everywhere.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator