Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2 1/4 - 4 inches (5.7 - 10.1 cm). The upperside is blue to blue-green with much iridescence on the outer part of the hindwing. The underside is dark brown. The forewing has 2 red-orange bars near the base of the leading edge; the hindwing has 3 red-orange spots near the base and a row of red-orange spots. 

ID Tip: Large black butterfly with bright iridescent blue and orange spots.  No tails.

Egg: Gray-green.  Laid singly on the tip of host plant leaf.

Caterpillar: Resembles bird droppings in all stages.  May be mottled brown or green with creamy blotches and two knobby horns on thorax. Partially grown caterpillars from the third brood spend the winter in a specially rolled leaf called a hibernaculum that they silk to a branch. Feeding and development resumes that following spring.

Chrysalis: Shiny brown and white. Also resembles a bird dropping. Thorax has a a large, keel-like projection.

Red-Spotted Purples are consummate mimics.  Although they strongly resemble Pipevine Swallowtails, they are actually closely related to Viceroys, also incredible mimics.  The two species are drastically different in coloration, but their shapes are almost identical.  The family ties are also evident in early developmental stages, where egg, caterpillar, and chrysalis are almost indistinguishable.

RSP’s sip from overly ripe fruit, dung, and decaying matter, including carrion. They occasionally visit flowers for nectar.  Males are frequently encountered along woodland trails where they perch on sunlight leaves several feet above the ground.  They dart out to investigate possible females and then return to their chosen limb. Red-Spotted Purples are also avid puddlers.

Red-Spotted Purples are common and widespread in Alabama.  They are expected to occur in every county.

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Chambers , Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dale, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Fayette, Franklin, Hale, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Washington, Winston

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 4 7 29 65 61 44 106 48 70 66 74 76 50 58 52 35 42 40 32 81 150 151 67 34 29 29 8 4 1 1


Open woods, forest edges, and adjacent open areas.

Host and Nectar Plants

These host plants have been verified in Alabama:

Willows (Salix spp.), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Common Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum).

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Including Black Cherry trees in the landscape is beneficial to Red-Spotted Purples as well as Coral Hairstreaks.  Their flowers provide nectar for many spring-flying butterflies, and their fruits are beloved by birds.

If your landscape includes a pond, lake, or stream, allowing willows to grow may encourage Red-Spotted Purples as well as Mourning Cloaks and Viceroys to take up residency.