Thursday, September 07, 2006

At the Wildflower Meadow

This remarkable photo of a Viceroy butterfly caught in the act of depositing an egg on a plant at the Wildflower Meadow [North Woods], was taken by James O'Brien

A few facts from the Internet about Viceroys:

The Viceroy Butterfly is a black-and-orange insect that closely resembles the Monarch.
The viceroy and monarch were once thought to exhibit Batesian mimicry where a harmless species mimics a toxic species. Studies conducted in the early 1990's suggest that the viceroy and the monarch are actually examples of Mullerian mimicry where two equally toxic species mimic each other to the benefit of each. It can be distinguished from the Monarch by the black line that crosses its wings. Also, the undersides of its wings are quite similar to the topside (unlike the Monarch, whose underside is much lighter).

The Viceroy is a strong flier; it has a wingspan of 2.75 to 3 inches (7 to 7.5 cm). It has a black, fuzzy body.

The Viceroy is found from Canada to Mexico. It inhabits riverbeds, wet meadows, marshes, and other wetlands where willow, poplar and aspen trees occur. This species is in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat.

The caterpillar is olive green and brown with bristly tufts behind the head (the caterpillar resembles bird droppings) . It eats mostly willow and cottonwood.

Classification: Order Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Family Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies), Genus Limenitis, Species archippus.