Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2½ - 3 inches (6.4 - 7.6 cm) UPPER SURFACE (dorsal) Orange with black veins; outer edge black with white spots; forewing and hindwing with thin black band. UNDE SURFACE (ventral) Mirrors upper surface but not as dark.

ID Tip: Strongly resembles the Monarch but has a thin black line across the hind wings that Monarchs lack.

Egg: Whitish turning gray-green. PItted with short bristles; dome shaped. Typically laid singly on the tip of host plant leaf.

Caterpillar: Note: To distinguish Viceroy caterpillars from Red-Spotted Purple caterpillars, look for spiked rather than rounded projections behind the head.

Chrysalis: Shiny brown and white; abdomen paler. Thorax with large, knob-like projection.

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Viceroys are consummate mimics.  Although they strongly resemble Monarchs, they are actually closely related to Red-Spotted Purples, 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.

Much of the classic and well-known literature about Monarch/Viceroy mimicry suggested that palatable Viceroys mimic unpalatable Monarchs in order to gain some protection from predators. However, both butterfly species are at least somewhat distasteful, so each benefits from looking like the other. Viceroy caterpillars taste bad because their bodies hold on to the salicylic acid contained in their willow hosts, making them bitter. Resembles bird droppings in all stages.  May be mottled brown or green; has 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.

Viceroys fly with a distinctive flap and glide pattern that helps to distinguish them from Monarchs. They are found throughout Alabama, wherever willows grow.

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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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 albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

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

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 30 - Baldwin - 9/14/2023
  • 18 - Perry - 8/23/2015
  • 18 - Sumter - 10/15/2021
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
3 4 8 9 5 14 5 1 16 8 18 14 34 32 14 17 40 24 43 18 81 68 130 66 61 48 32 41 26 10 4

Habitat

Marshes, river and stream banks, swamps, pond and lake margins, and other disturbed wetlands.

Viceroy
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
County
© Sara Bright
Willow lined Cahaba River
Viceroy
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
County
© Sara Bright
Willows on Cahaba River bank

Host and Nectar Plants

Reports from nearby states list willows (Salix spp.) and cottonwood (Populus deltoides).

The following have been documented in Alabama:

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Viceroy
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
County
© Sara Bright
Willow

Landscaping Ideas

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