The viceroy butterfly, scientifically known as Limentis archippus, and classified as basilarchia archippus, is an endangered member of the animal kingdom. It is part of the arthropod phylum, and the class insecta. The viceroy is of the order Lepidoptera (which includes butterflies and moths), the family Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterflies), the genus Limentis, and the species archippus.

The viceroy butterfly is black and orange, and it is not poisonous. It is known for mimicking the monarch butterfly (pictured left) in its looks. You can differentiate between the monarch and the viceroy (below) because the viceroy has a black stripe that crosses it’s wings, and the monarch’s underside is much lighter than its top, whereas the viceroy’s top and underside are very much the same. The viceroy has a black, fuzzy abdomen and thorax, and its wingspan is between 2 ½ and 3 inches, or 6 to 7 ½ centimeters.

The viceroy’s habitat is in riverbeds, wet meadows, marshes, and other wetland type areas bearing poplar, aspen, and willow trees. It mainly lives in North America, but can be sometimes found elsewhere, such as in areas of Britain. Due to the decreasing number of wetlands today, the viceroy is on the endangered list.

The caterpillar of the viceroy is olive green and brown, with little stiff bunches of hairs behind its head. It somewhat resembles the droppings of a bird. The viceroy is indigestible and disgusting to other animals that eat insects. It also has few predators because the monarch is poisonous, so creatures avoid eating both of them, but the birds that have not yet experienced the monarch readily eat viceroy. Viceroys eat mainly willow and cottonwood leaves.

Because there are not many viceroy inhabiting the world, the effects of it eating leaves are extremely minimal, and leaves virtually no disruptive-to-the-environment or harmful traces.

The viceroy lays its pale green or yellow, ovoid eggs on the leaves of food plants. They turn gray later on, and are laid singly, or individually, usually on the upper side of the tip of the host leaf. The eggs hatch as larva, or caterpillars, around springtime and eat catkins, then in fall leaves. They form their “winter quarters” from a leaf, and emerge in the spring from their dormant pupa stage as adult viceroy. The males spend their time finding a mate, and females laying eggs, for they do not survive through the winter as adult butterflies.

How the name “viceroy” came about has to do with royal hierarchy and the monarch butterfly. Monarch means a king or a queen. The term viceroy comes from viceroyalty, or the next step down from a king or queen. Because the viceroy looks similar to the monarch, it was called the viceroy, because monarch was obviously already in use.

Butterflies and moths are very similar, but they both have their differences. There is not a set of rules in cement or set in stone that distinguish between the two. Butterflies usually have scaleless, threadlike antennae with a club-like fixation on the end. They are frequently colored brightly and vibrantly. They generally fly during the daytime, but some tropical ones take to the air at dawn or dusk, and some are nocturnal. Butterflies range in size from 1 cm (pigmy blues) to over 25 cm. (1 inch; birdwings of Melanesia)

Moth’s antennae are commonly feathery in appearance. Even though many moths are brightly colored, specifically the day-flying ones, most are dull gray and brown. The biggest moths are the giant silkworm moths of Asia (next page, bottom), the atlas moth (next page, top left) and the Emperor moths (right), sometimes growing to over 1 foot in length. The tiniest moth’s wings span only a couple of centimeters.

The atlas moth holds the record for the largest wing area.

Giant silkworm moths are the longest moths, measuring their wingspan.

References

  • Moths. (1997). In World Book Encyclopedia (Vol. M, pp. 837-832). Chicago, IL: World Book
  • (1999). Viceroy. In Encarta Interactive Encyclopedia. Encarta. [CD-RW]. Microsoft Corporation.
  • (1995). Endangered Species: Viceroy [On-line]. Retrieved September 16, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://rbcm1.rbcm.gov.bc.ca/end_species/species/viceroy.html#sources
  • Unknown (no date). Dictionary. Unknown: Unknown