Viceroy: Monarch Mimic

Viceroy? Male or female?
First, I love your web site! Fantastic! I may have to catch and identify the spiders and other critters that seem to like my apartment now that I have a way to identify them. Secondly, today I had a delightful surprise as I walked out to my motorcycle after work. As I approached, this lovely butterfly landed on the side view mirror of my bike. She(?) patiently waited and slowly flexed her wings in the sun while I dug out my camera phone to get these unfortunately blurry pictures. My question is whether this is a Monarch or a Viceroy? My impression is that it is a Viceroy, due to the horizontal black vein across the lower section of the hind wings. Are there other easy ways to conclusively distinguish the Monarch from the Viceroy? And finally, if this is a Viceroy, is there a visual way to distinguish the sex (like the Monarch male’s black spots?)
David Lauridsen
Cincinnati, OH

Wow David,
What a nice letter. Yes, this is a Viceroy, Limenitis archippus which is very closely related to the Red Spotted Purple and White Admiral which it does not resemble. It was long thought that Viceroys tasted good to birds and Monarchs did not, but our Butterflies Through Binoculars Book by Jeffrey Glassberg says that “Recent evidence suggests that, at least in Florida, Viceroys are also distasteful to birds. Presumably, a greater number of similar-looking unpalatable individuals in an area results in a faster learning curve for birds, sparing butterflies.” Also according to Glassberg: “Viceroys are smaller than Monarchs and they often glide on flat wings while Monarchs and Queens sail with their wings in a V.” We can’t really tell you how to easily distinguish male from female Viceroys, but we are amused you thought your specimen was female. We presume it is because motorcycles are chick magnets.

Leave a Comment