Viceroy: # 5 of “23 Butterflies in 2023”

Leonard Weber

February 7, 2023

Because it looks so much like the more famous Monarch, the Viceroy may be the most misidentified butterfly regularly seen in Eliza Howell Park. (For photos of Monarch, please see # 4.)

The Viceroy is black and orange, with white spots. With a wingspan of about 3 inches, it is a little smaller than the Monarch.

On Purple Coneflower
On Wild Bergamot

The curved black line across the Viceroy’s hindwing is probably the easiest way to distinguish it from the Monarch.

Top: Monarch; Bottom: Viceroy

The Viceroy is frequently found quite close to water. It lays eggs on the leaves of willow family trees (like willows, poplars, cottonwoods) and survives the winter in the caterpillar stage.

There are typically two broods a year, with the second one more likely to come to flowers for nectar. I often see them on flowers in July and August, especially in July.

On Coneflower in July
On Wild Bergamot in July
In Queen Anne’s Lace in July

The Viceroy has long been considered a mimic of the Monarch, gaining protection from predators by imitating the Monarch (which is avoided by most birds because it is so distasteful). More recent research has shown that the Viceroy has its own toxicity. Perhaps the Monarch benefits as a Viceroy mimic.

As one gets to know the Viceroy, it becomes easier to recognize other differences, such as the flight, which is faster than the Monarch. It is also more likely to hold its wings flat.

At times the most distinctive mark, the dark line across the wings, is weak or absent, making it even more difficult to identify.

The Monarch gets the attention and the fame, but the Viceroy is also high on the list of lovely and photogenic Eliza Howell Park butterflies.

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