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Butterflies of Mexico, USA & Canada
Viceroy
Limenitis archippus  FABRICIUS, 1775
Family - NYMPHALIDAE
subfamily - LIMENITIDINAE
Tribe - LIMENITIDINI
Limenitis archippus, Massachusetts, USA  Frank Model
Introduction
There are about 25-30 species in the genus Limenitis. Some such as populi and camilla are widely distributed across Europe and temperate Asia. The majority however are largely restricted to China and the countries of the former Soviet Union. There are 4 species found in tropical Asia, but there the genus is largely replaced by Neptis. The sister genus of Limenitis in South America is Adelpha.
In North America there are 4 Limenitis species - archippus, lorquini, arthemis and weidemeyerii.
The Viceroy mimics the Monarch Danaus plexippus. Unpalateable butterflies such as plexippus tend to have prominent patterns. Experiments have shown that birds can memorise these patterns and learn to avoid eating similarly patterned species in the future. The legendary 19th century naturalist Henry Walter Bates realised that many species such as Limenitis archippus which were palatable to birds had uncannily similar patterns to unrelated toxic species, and postulated that they had evolved these patterns as a survival strategy. His theory has proven to be applicable to hundreds of butterfly species, particularly in the neotropics where unpalatable Danaines and Ithomiines are models to a large number of Nymphaline mimics.

Danaus plexippus Ingo Arndt

Limenitis archippus Benny Mazur

Limenitis archippus is found in the southern states of the USA, and in northern and eastern Mexico. It has also been recorded as a vagrant in Cuba.
Habitats
This species is found in deciduous woodland habitats and in other areas where the larval foodplants grow, e.g. along riverbanks and in meadow / forest mosaics.
Lifecycle
The egg is pale green, dome-shaped and covered with hexagonal depressions and tiny setae. It is laid singly at the tips of the upper surface of willow leaves Salix nigra ( Salicaceae ). The caterpillar is olive-brown with a marbled white 'saddle', and strongly resembles a bird dropping. It hibernates overwinter within a rolled leaf of the foodplant, and resumes feeding in the spring. The chrysalis looks like a dead leaf, and hangs suspended by the cremaster from a stem or twig.
Adult behaviour
Males commonly imbibe mineralised moisture from damp ground. Both sexes nectar at a wide range of flowers, favouring Buddleia, Lantana and various Apiaceae and Asteraceae species.
Limenitis archippus, Massachusetts, USA  Frank Model
 

 

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