Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 2½ - 3 inches (6.4 - 7.6 cm). Above, wings are orange with black veins.  Outer margins are black with white spots.  Both forewing and hindwing have a thin black band.  Below, wings are similar but not as dark.

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

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

Caterpillar: 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. 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 is paler.  Thorax has a a large, knob-like projection.Also resembles a bird dropping.


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, which makes them bitter.

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

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):

  • 18 - Perry - 8/23/2015
  • 18 - Sumter - 10/15/2021
  • 15 - Marshall - 6/26/2010
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
2 3 7 8 5 14 4 1 16 8 18 13 32 31 14 15 37 23 40 18 80 68 98 58 51 31 24 40 15 10 4


Moist, open shrubby areas.  Ususally near water.

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

Host and Nectar Plants

Willows (Salix spp.) and Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) are reported hosts.

Willows have been documented in Alabama.

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

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
© Sara Bright

Landscaping Ideas

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