Thursday, June 17, 2010
the Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus) – it’s Kentucky’s state butterfly. But what do you really know about it? I could not find out any particular reason it is the state butterfly other than it is rather common here. However, this isn’t the extent of its range; it can be found all the way from Canada to Mexico. I think that Viceroys are best known not for being Kentucky’s state butterfly but rather for being “not Monarchs”. These butterflies are very hard to tell apart from the Monarch. They are distinguished from the Monarch by their smaller size and by the black stripe on their bottom wings that the Monarch lacks. They mimic Monarchs because of the fact that Monarchs are poisonous (due to their consumption of Milkweed). It is interesting to note that they mimic other butterflies as well, such as the Queen and the Soldier, depending on the location. The deception doesn’t stop there. As soon as these insects hatch they deceive predators, not by mimicking a beautiful but toxic butterfly, but rather a revolting drop of bird poop which is obviously unappetizing to potential predators. The larva feed on Willow trees as well as other related trees. In conclusion, whether you are an insect collector or just an observer, next time you see a Viceroy butterfly (which you may learn to distinguish from the Monarch) don’t just think of it as a “not Monarch” but as a fascinating and elegant yet stealthy and deceptive unique species of its own.