Posts Tagged ‘Viceroy butterfly’


Daylilies are like eye candy for humans, but they’re not a big draw for pollinators, in spite of the impression this skipper resting on Broken Heart might give. For bugs, I have other plants. A favorite of both me and the insects is coneflower, or echinacea.


Echinacea mixes well with daylilies and other perennials and is a big draw for butterflies. Two nice varieties for mixing with other plants are Ruby Star and Magnus. They’ve both been reliable bloomers in my garden. In the photo above, that’s Ruby Star near the centre, and Magnus on the far left.


Here’s another shot of Ruby Star mingling with daylilies. The yellow flowers are Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’. Ruby Star stands about 40 inches tall.

Magnus is very similar, perhaps a few inches shorter, and has reddish stems. Here’s Magnus blooming with the plumes of Giant Fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) and a phlox variety in the background. The thistle-like flowers are Echinops bannaticus ‘Star Frost’. To the right is the switchgrass Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’.


For a shorter coneflower, Prairie Splendor is an excellent choice. This clump, being watched over by Charlie Bird (Jake the Rake?) stands about 24 inches tall.


Close to Prairie Splendor is a double echinacea, Pink Double Delight. It’s been in the garden for a few years and has done well. Like its neighbour, it is about two feet tall. Here is a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) enjoying the flowers.


I’ve had fun growing some of the new echinacea hybrids that have arrived on the market in the last few years. They feature some unusual non-traditional colours and many have pompom or mophead flowers. One of my favorites is Hot Papaya, which I’ve had for a few years.


New this summer was the orange Marmalade. I added it to the Red and Gold border.


Many ‘green’ flowers have only a slight hint of green. However, Green Jewel is quite emphatically green. I love the complexity of the pattern in the flower head.


This little white coneflower is Meringue. It’s a compact plant, about 18 inches tall.


Meringue was a favorite white until I met Milkshake. Milkshake is about twice as tall as Meringue, reaching 3 feet. I find that, from a distance, the yellow centres of the flowers give them the appearance of egg whites with the yolk in the middle! This flower has a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) butterfly visiting it.


Milkshake provides a backdrop for the pink flowers of Secret Romance, another favorite.


I’ll close with this picture of a rather battered Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Prairie Splendor.


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As I walked past the hydrangea bush, a big orange butterfly flew up and gently batted me on the nose! I stopped to investigate. I’ve grown accustomed to the buzzing of many bees visiting the hydrangea, and there are usually a few butterflies to be seen as well. But on this day, what caught my eye were more than a dozen regal fliers, Monarchs and a few Viceroys.


The Viceroys (Limenitis archippus) are more inclined to pose with their wings open, which makes them easy to differentiate from the similar Monarchs. The Viceroys display an easy-to-spot black line across their lower wings. Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) are well known for their reputation as foul-tasting, a result of their absorption of chemicals found in the milkweed plants eaten by caterpillars. Viceroy caterpillars dine on willows, which contain small amounts of salicylic acid, a chemical related to the acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin. The salicylic acid stored in the bodies of Viceroys makes them foul-tasting as well.


Monarchs and Viceroys have very different life cycles. The Viceroys will overwinter as caterpillars,wrapping themselves in a dead leaf on the ground. In spring, the caterpillars emerge and eat fresh leaves for two to four weeks before pupating. They will emerge as adults just about the time that the Monarchs are returning from the south.


The Monarchs famously migrate to Mexico, undertaking a journey of several thousand miles. It is a journey fraught with peril, made more difficult every year by the intursions of humans into the landscape, more habitat loss, more cars, more pesticides. Once in Mexico, the Monarchs are concentrated in one of Mexico’s poorest areas, where their winter habitat is under severe threat from slash-and-burn farming and logging. Monarchs are now listed as a species of concern.


Sue Halpern, author of Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly notes that ironically, the North American Free Trade Agreement chose the monarch as its symbol, because it, too, crosses among the continent’s three nations. But the poor environmental practices that NAFTA encourages may harm the monarch’s chances for future survival.


I strolled around the garden and noticed that the Monarchs were visiting other plants as well, especially the sunflowers and the buddlia flowers. As I watched, a line of Canada Geese flew overhead, the first I’ve observed this fall. Soon they will be heading south and the Monarchs will begin their long journey as well. I pray that many of their descendants will return safely in the spring.


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Viceroy on echinacea 'Ruby Star'

If you want to attract butterflies to your yard, echinacea, or coneflower is a good choice to add to your border. On Sunday, I was able to photograph both Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Viceroys (Limenitis archippus) as they visited the echinacea in the garden. These very similar butterflies are easily confused. Last September, I wrote about telling Viceroys and Monarchs apart and will repeat an excerpt here. You can read the full post and view more photographs of Viceroys and Monarchs by following this link to Royal Butterflies.

Viceroys are a bit smaller than Monarchs but the easiest way to tell them apart is to look for the black line that loops across the Viceroy’s hindwing. This line doesn’t appear on a Monarch’s wing. The line can be spotted whether the wings are open or closed. Viceroys aren’t closely related to Monarchs, but derive some protection from predators by mimicking the colour of the larger butterfly, well-known for its noxious qualities. It is now thought that the Viceroy may be equally distasteful to predators in its own right.


Monarch on echinacea 'Tangerine Dream'

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At the beginning of the week, we had some much-needed rain. Actually, we had a LOT of rain, with a heavy downpour on Wednesday. Consequently, I welcomed the sunny weather on Thursday, an absolutely beautiful fall day, and I couldn’t resist idling away part of the afternoon with a tour around the property. Here are some of the sights I saw.


Behind the house, the maple leaves are beginning to turning bright colours, although there is still a lot of green. Farther down the drive, the touch of red is provided by a Virginia Creeper vine that has entwined itself high in a tree.


I walked down the lane to the bridge over the little river. Today the flow was much more impressive than it was just a few days ago. Agricultural land along the river has drainage and trenching systems that mean rainwater is diverted into the river rapidly following a storm. As a result, the river flow swells quickly in response to wet weather. Presumably, this also contributes to the muddy appearance of the water.


Down by the water’s edge, there were a number of blue darners zipping about. Those darn darners! They never hold still to get their picture taken. I was lucky even to catch this guy in the photo frame. It is likely a Mosaic Darner, a member of the genus Aeshna, possibly a Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis). That would be appropriate.


Along the bank of the river, I noticed these mullein (Verbascum thapsus) rosettes. The fuzzy, felt leaves are the first-year growth of the biennial plant. Next year, they’ll put up a flower spike.


Across from the river and beside our property is a field planted in soybeans. They’ll be ready to harvest soon. Their summer green is gone and the field is a golden brown. Look at those clouds! One of the nice things about a flat, open landscape are the frequent displays of breathtaking skies. It’s like living in a seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. Only without the windmills.


This majestic Crimson King maple is beautiful in every season.


Hi Mousie! Hi Czarina! Hi Louis!


The field behind the barn is beautiful now as the long grass fades to a soft sandy brown and the seed heads catch the sunlight.


I didn’t notice the spider until I downloaded the photographs and spotted it, perhaps an Argiope species.


Down by the pond, it is much quieter than it was in the spring and summer. After I had stood by the water for a few minutes, however, I noticed a number of reddish dragonflies. One landed on my pants-leg, facing up towards me, and I noticed it had a white face. Then I saw that along the water there were a few dozen red dragonflies, all in pairs. They were dipping down to the water surface, rising up a foot or so, and then dipping down again. It appeared to be females laying eggs in the water with the males in tandem, contact guarding their mate. I was quite sure the dragonflies were White-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum obtrusum) until I got back to the house and checked my guide. Hmm. Problem. Both the males and females appeared red, while the females of meadowhawks are usually a dull olive-brown. It’s a mystery.


As I returned to the house I noticed a butterfly land on the arm of a lawn chair. There was a fair breeze, and it struggled mightily to get its sail-like wings under control.



Finally, it managed to settle on the chair arm with its wings flat and out of the wind. A Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).
Not without regret, I returned to the house to tackle more prosaic tasks.

Jan van Goyen: View of Rhenen, 1646

Jan van Goyen: View of Rhenen, 1646

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A month or so ago, I came across this caterpillar. It was chewing its way through willow leaves on plants near the edge of the pond. It’s a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) caterpillar. The Viceroy caterpillar is one of a few species who are often compared to bird droppings. The Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astanax) also has bird-dropping-like caterpillars.


I wrote a bit about Viceroys when I spotted one at the Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary back in June. Recently, there have been a number of Viceroys on the wing around the house, visiting the hydrangea and other flowers. Presumably, some of them were once caterpillars on the willows by the pond. Here’s a quote from that earlier post:

The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) looks like a small Monarch butterfly. It can be readily differentiated by its smaller size and by the black line that runs across the bottom of the lower, or hind wing, lacking in the Monarch. The larvae of Monarchs feed mostly on milkweeds. Chemicals derived from the milkweed make Monarchs very distasteful to most predators. It was once believed that the Viceroy was a Monarch mimic so that it might take advantage of this predator protection scheme, but it is now thought the Viceroy is equally distasteful to predators. The larval food for the Viceroy is willow species.


A good source of information about the life cycles of the most common butterflies is Burris and Richards’ aptly-named book, The Life Cycles of Butterflies. Below is the double-page spread on Viceroys.


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At the corner of the house, there is a large hydrangea bush. Over the past few weeks, it has been putting on a magnificent display, with huge cones of flowers billowing over it. The flowers are much appreciated by a host of pollinators. The large, showy clusters of flowers mean that insects visiting the bush aren’t always conspicuous as they move from bloom to bloom. Rather, as you walk past the apparently-empty bush, you become aware of the hum of many insects at work. When you stop to look, it is clear that the bush is host to a small army of workers. Here are a few of the visitors.


The most conspicuous visitors are butterflies. Pictured above is a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus), while below is a rather battered-looking Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma).


A few flies were among the visitors. The individual below may be a Greenbottle (Lucilia sp.).


The striped bottom shown here seems to be that of a Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata).


This yellow-striped bottom is probably that of an Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons).


I was happy to see quite a number of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera).


This fuzzy bee, probably a Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens) rounds out my roster of visitors. Undoubtedly, many others are also enjoying this bountiful hydrangea.


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