Viceroy butterfly emerging from a cocoon
Viceroy butterfly emerging from a cocoon

Introduction to the Viceroy Butterfly

Viceroy butterflies are a brush-footed species. The tiny, hairy forelegs of brush-footed butterflies look more like feet than feet. It is dark orange, with black veins. Its wings are surrounded by white spots.

The viceroy caterpillar’s colour and pattern are similar to the monarch butterfly’s, except for a horizontal black stripe running the length of its back wings. Viceroy caterpillars are white and olive-brown.

Range and habitat

Viceroy butterfly range and habitat

The viceroy can be found throughout the United States, as well as in Canada and Mexico.

Viceroy butterflies live in meadows, marshes, swamps, and other wet areas with poplar, willow, and aspen trees.

Diet

Viceroy caterpillars eat the leaves of poplar and willow trees. These butterflies also eat dung, carrion and fungi.

Life Cycle

Viceroys mate in the afternoon. The female will lay her eggs on the tips and leaves of poplars or willows. Each breeding season usually sees two to three generations of viceroys.

Viceroy caterpillar
Viceroy caterpillar

Behaviour

The Batesian mimicry, where a harmless species imitates a harmful species, was once believed to have been displayed by the viceroy and monarch. In the early 1990s, studies showed that the viceroy of the kingdom and the monarch were actually examples of Mullerian mimicry where two equally toxic species mimic one another to their benefit.

It just goes to show that there is always something new in the natural world. Below you can see the difference between the two butterflies.

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly
Viceroy butterfly
Viceroy butterfly

Six facts about these butterflies

Viceroys can mimick other butterflies.

The viceroy butterflies look like monarch butterflies. It was thought that the monarch was toxic to predators, while the viceroy wasn’t. In the 1990s, scientists discovered that viceroys were also toxic to predators. Their bright colours are a warning. In reality, mimicry can work both ways.

Viceroys don’t eat picky.

Adult butterflies eat nectar. Viceroys do the same. Viceroys eat dung and carrion, as well as fungus.

Viceroy caterpillars can be white or black and eat poplar and willow leaves.  Many generations can live together in one season.

As with many insects, there are several viceroy generations every summer.

The female butterflies mating season is in the afternoon. They lay their eggs on the tips and ends of poplar or willow leaves. Each breeding season usually produces two to three generations of viceroys.

Viceroys are fond of wet areas.

Viceroy butterflies lay eggs on poplar or willow tree leaves. They are often found in areas that support these types of trees, such as meadows and marshes.

They don’t migrate.

The monarch and viceroy butterflies, unlike their close relatives, do not migrate. Instead, caterpillars of the first or second stage (or instar) will hibernate wrapped in poplar or willow leaves.

This is why viceroy butterflies are rarely seen until 15 days after poplar or willow leaves emerge each year.

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroys fly in different ways.

Because monarch butterflies float, you can tell the difference between a monarch and a viceroy flying.

People often ask questions.

Is the Viceroy butterfly toxic?

The adult viceroys, who are akin to Monarch butterflies of the past BOTW fame, are well-known.  Monarchs can be poisonous as their caterpillar host, milkweed, is high in toxic cardiac glycosides. (Batesian mimicry–the harmless imitation of them dangerous).

What is the difference between a monarch and viceroy butterflies?

The principal visual difference between Monarch butterflies and Viceroys is a black line that runs across their hind wings. The viceroy is slightly smaller than the monarch. … The viceroy caterpillar is a lumpy twig with subdued green and brown colours. Monarch butterflies don’t have this line.

Viceroy butterfly

Are viceroy butterflies beneficial?

These chemicals make monarchs taste terrible when eaten by animals. The animal gets sick, vomits, and then learns to avoid the butterfly or other similar-looking butterflies. The viceroys look just like monarchs. This is because they are easier to avoid than the monarchs.

How can you attract viceroy butterflies to your garden?

Planting their host plants, which include cottonwood, poplar and willow, in your backyard garden can attract viceroys. Viceroy butterflies lay eggs on members of the willow family and willow leaves.

Viceroy butterfly

How many eggs can viceroy butterflies lay?

They lay two to three eggs per plant. The primary host plants are cottonwoods, poplar, and willow. However, the females can also deposit eggs on plums and apples. After hatching, the caterpillars consume their egg cases and then feed at night.

How long does a viceroy butterfly live?

6- to 14 Days

Further Reading

 

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