Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Admirals (Limenitis)

The Admirals are a beautiful but somewhat underappreciated group of butterflies spanning from California to Maryland and from Wisconsin to Texas. Generally, they are medium-sized dark butterflies with white banding resembling military stripes, but this banding is absent in the Red-Spotted Purple. The Viceroy (L. archippus) is the genus outlier, with orange and black markings that strongly imitate the Monarch.

The common and famous Red Admiral is only distantly related to the Admirals.

Click for shots

Lorquin's Admiral (L. lorquini)



A West Coast specialty. This individual was seen in San Diego July 2, 2005 in a small stand of trees near a stream.

Weidemeyer's Admiral (L. weidemeyerii)



Durango, CO (Wilderness Trails Ranch) Aug. 20, 2004
A western admiral, somewhat uncommon.

The Red-Spotted Purple (L. arthemis astyanax)



Gorgeous and very common in Maryland. The lower picture captures somewhat of the iridescent sheen that comes off of the upper wings in fresh individuals. This individual, seen in North Bay, MD Aug. 31, 2007, is lapping up salts off of the road surface, a common practice for some species. Red-Spotted Purples tend to do this frequently and can often be seen on rotting fruit, horse manure, etc. Here's a relatively rare shot of one on a flower (Buddleia):


The White Admiral (L. arthemis)

No pics. :( Within the last thirty years, this species and the above, L. astyanax, were merged by taxonomists into a single species. Essentially, L. arthemis is found north and west, while L. arthemis astyanax is found south and east. There are records of this one in Maryland, but I only know of someone who knows of someone who claims to have seen two in his lifetime. OK, then. On to...

The Viceroy (L. archippus)

This is probably the world's most famous mimic species of all. The renowned Monarch feeds on milkweed species and causes a vomiting reaction in birds; the Viceroy looks nearly identical and (so it has been conjectured for about 100 years) benefits from Batesian mimicry.

Except that recent studies have debunked all that and find that Viceroys taste bad in their own right.

Oh well. They still are gorgeous.


Carroll Co, July 4, 2007. The black stripes on the hindwing that cut across the veins make a "V" for Viceroy; this is a reliable mark both above and below that distinguishes from the Monarch.

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