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What is the name of the species of this butterfly?

What is the name of the species of this butterfly?


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Well,I am from India and live in the northern part of the country.I commonly find these butterflies during winter or spring seasons.

The original image shot is:


I'm not an expert, but it looks like a male "common mormon" or Papilio polytes romulus
https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Papilio_polytes_romulus


What is the name of the species of this butterfly? - Biology

Official Status: Endangered, the lotis blue butterfly is federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as endangered.

Date Listed: June 1, 1976 Federal Register: 41 FR 22041 (pdf, 500 KB).

Critical Habitat:Critical habitat for the Lotis Blue Butterfly has not been designated.

Recovery Plan: A Lotis Blue Butterfly Recovery Plan (pdf, 1.2 MB) was published in December1985



Male Lotis Blue Butterfly

Photo Credit:USFWS File Photograph

T he lotis blue butterfly is a small butterfly, with a wingspan averaging of about 1 inch (2.5 cm). The upper wing surfaces are a deep violet-blue in the male, with a black border and fringe of white scales along the outer wing margin. In females, the upper wing surface is brown, or sometimes bluish-brown, with a wavy band of orange near the outer margins of the wings, and an inconspicuous black border and fringe of white scales along the outer wing margins. The wing undersides in both sexes are a grayish-white with scattered black spots, with a band of small orange spots bordered by black toward the outer wing margins. The species Lycaeides argyrognomon, whichincludes the lotis blue butterfly and 12 other subspecies or forms, is also referred to Lycaeides idas, or Plebejus argyrognomon, and as the northern blue butterfly. The northern blue butterfly occurs across northern North America. The lotis blue occurs at the southwestern edge of the northern blue butterfly&rsquos range.

B lue butterflies can be difficult for non-experts to identify, but the lotis blue butterfly is distinguished from other subspecies of Lycaeides argyrognomon by its large size, the size and pattern of the orange and black spots, and whitish underside wing color.

H istorically, the lotis blue butterfly was found at several coastal locations in California, primarily in Mendocino County, but also in northern Sonoma County, and possibly northern Marin County. Unfortunately, location information for most of the historic lotis blue butterfly sites is vague, and is based on specimens collected prior to the 1950&rsquos. The one exception is a population discovered in 1935, north of the town of Mendocino. Over the years, this site was visited by many lepidopterists and was the only certain location for the species from the 1950&rsquos until the last confirmed observation in 1983. The subspecies has not been observed since 1983.

T he life history of the lotis blue butterfly, like so much about this butterfly, is based on the known life history of closely related subspecies of the northern blue butterfly. The lotis blue probably has a single generation per year, with a relatively long adult flight period, extending from mid-April to early July. Eggs are likely laid during the adult flight season. Newly hatched larvae begin to feed immediately, then overwinter in dormancy (diapause) as small larvae, then resume feeding the next spring. The larvae (caterpillars) probably feed for about 4-6 weeks in the spring before pupating. Lotis blue larvae have apparently not been observed therefore we do not know what plants the larvae require for food. Based on closely related species, native plants in the pea family (Fabaceae) are likely candidates. The coast trefoil (also known as seaside bird&rsquos-foot trefoil) (Lotus formosissimus) is thought to be a larval food plant. The coast trefoil is a small perennial plant that generally occurs in damp areas in meadows, roadside ditches, and forest edges and clearings. This plant grew at the last known lotis blue site, and there is a report of a lotis blue butterfly showing egg-laying behavior on coast trefoil, although no egg was observed. Other possible food plants include herbaceous species of lupine.

T he lotis blue butterfly probably occurred in wet meadows and sphagnum willow bogs. As noted above, the suspected food plant for larvae is the coast trefoil, which is relatively common along the Mendocino coast in damp coastal prairie. Although the last known location was a sphagnum bog within pygmy forest, the coast trefoil is not normally found in bogs within the historic range of the lotis blue butterfly. The importance of bogs to lotis blue butterflies is unclear. The last known site for the species was located in a sphagnum bog surrounded by pygmy forest dominated by Bishop pine (Pinus muricata) with an understory of species in the heath family. This suggests that such bogs may be at least one lotis blue habitat. However, a recent extensive survey for lotis blue butterflies found that pygmy forest bogs did not provide many potential larval food plants, and suggested that bogs may not be typical habitat for the lotis blue. Also, a powerline corridor ran through the last known lotis blue site, thus it may not have been a typical, natural bog. Without knowing the larval food plant with certainty, the specific habitat characteristics for the species will remain something of a mystery.

T he lotis blue butterfly may be the rarest butterfly in North America. The species has not been observed since 1983, despite many surveys at the last known site. Extensive surveys of historic and potential sites in 1991 and again in 2003-2004 did not find the lotis blue either. However, not all potential habitat has been surveyed, and the lotis blue butterfly may persist at one or more sites.

T hreats to the species are unknown, given our limited knowledge of the lotis blue. The butterfly may have been naturally rare, and may have further declined due to natural factors such as a drying climate trend, or vegetation community changes over long time periods. Changes in land use and management in historic times have contributed to vegetation changes within the historic range of the species, and may have affected the species. Suppression of fires and other changes that reduced disturbance are suspected to have led to the transition of more open habitats, such as meadows, forest openings and coastal prairie, to areas dominated by forest and other taller, denser vegetation. Development for housing and associated road-building has increased in recent decades, leading to loss and degradation of native habitats, and fragmentation of remaining habitat areas. Because the butterfly may be associated with bogs and other wetland habitats, actions which affect groundwater may also affect the habitat for the species.

A primary conservation need is to locate one or more populations of the lotis blue. Should this happen, a priority need, in addition to protecting and managing the sites for the species, would be to study the lotis blue sufficiently to understand its basic biology and habitat needs, including what plant species the caterpillars require for food. With this information, we would know better where to search for the lotis blue, and how to manage lands to conserve and restore the species within its historic range.


How long do butterflies live?

The average lifespan of a butterfly is usually around 1 month while the smaller butterflies generally live around one week.

The Monarch butterfly is the only butterfly that has a lifespan of around nine months. No butterfly can live for more than a year.

There are different factors that depend on how long a butterfly will live such as what type of butterfly it is, where it lives and what time of year the butterfly became an adult.

Most smaller butterflies will not live as long and the larger butterflies tend to live longer, even though this is not always the fact.

The climate matters to how long a butterfly will live because butterflies are cold-blooded and when the weather gets cold, butterflies will die faster than if they are born or live in the warmer weather.

Most butterflies will migrate south when the weather starts to get cooler and that means that they could live for months and months past their regular life-span, depending on the stage of life that they are in when winter comes.

Another thing that depends on how long a butterfly will live is the predators that they live by.

A butterfly has many predators such as birds and other insects so this can make a dramatic difference on how long a butterfly will live in the wild.

How do butterflies sleep?

Butterflies do not actually sleep, they do what is called quiescent.

This means that they rest but quiescence is not the same as how people or animals sleep.

When the weather is cool or if the weather is cloudy, butterflies will rest with their eyes open and since they do not have eyelids, their eyes do not close when they are resting.

Most butterflies will become quiescent when it is night and cool and they will hide in the bushes or the flowers and hang upside down from twigs in trees or from leaves that hang from trees.

Most butterflies will rest hanging upside down because they have tarsi which are like claws that help them to grip the leaves or twigs.

Resting upside down requires the least amount of energy that a butterfly can use because a butterfly uses a lot more energy standing up right.

When butterflies rest under leaves, they do this so that they can be protected from the dew or rain that falls at night and because the leaves will help to hide them from early morning predators that are lurking around the area looking for something to eat.

Some butterflies that are bright yellow, orange and black do not need as much protection when they sleep because these colors are warning signs to their predators that they might be poisonous to eat, therefore, they will rest more in the open and hang from a small twig or stick to rest.

Many butterflies need heat in order to have energy to move and fly around and so when they rest at night they allow the nectar of the plants to build up and they use this rest in order to help them to digest the food that they had that day.

Since they are not technically asleep though, they can fly off without any energy if they become disturbed.

Butterflies often times rest in groups or in pairs and this rest is similar to hibernating.

How do butterflies get water?

When a butterfly eats, they need to have enough salt and minerals in order to live, fly and reproduce.

A butterfly will use their proboscis, or their tongue, in order to suck water and other liquids into their bodies.

They do this in order to consume the sugar and minerals so that they can have the energy that they need and the nutrients in order to survive.

You will often times see butterflies in standing water drinking the water that has absorbed minerals from the soil that is underneath it.

This type of drinking is called puddling. Puddling happens many times a day for a butterfly and butterflies will often times go from puddle to puddle in order to disturb the water and get the minerals to go to the top.

If a butterfly does not see a water source, the butterfly will sometimes regurgitate its food on top of the soil and then drink it again in order to try to get the minerals that the soil has to offer it.

Therefore, butterflies do not drink the water to get the water, they drink the water to get the minerals and salt from the water and if they cannot find water, they will go to urine, tears, sweat, blood, dung or other sources for the minerals.

Why do butterflies like flowers?

Butterflies like flowers for many reasons. They like flowers because they are able to land on them when they travel long distances.

They also land on flowers in order to get nectar from the flower to give them energy.

Even though butterflies are not as big of pollinators as bees, they still will have pollen that sticks to their feet when they perch on the flowers and this makes them effective at pollinating other flowers.

Butterflies can see more colors than other butterflies and they love red flowers because red is one of their favorite colors and other colors they love are blue, and white.

Some of their favorite flowers include: Salvias, Firebush, Sweet Almond, Fiddlewood, Queen’s Wreath and more.

Butterflies are most attracted to flowers that are pink, purple, red, orange, white and yellow and the blue or green flowers seem to attract the least number of butterflies.

Butterflies also love to land on flowers that are short and have narrow tubes and have strong smells.

Even if they do not have a bright color that the butterfly likes, they will pick these flowers over other flowers because they have the most nectar.

Peacock Butterfly

How do butterflies get their colors?

Butterflies get their colors from two different sources, the ordinary color which is the pigmented color and from the structural color.

The ordinary or pigmented color is from the chemical pigments that absorb the light and the wavelengths.

This soaks up the different color spectrum of red and blue but it does not soak up green.

When a butterfly is brown or yellow, it is basically like a human’s freckles that come from melanin. Structural colors is when depending on how the butterfly is made will depend on the colors that will seem to be so bright on a butterfly.

When people see these colors, they are known as iridescence and there are many animals that we see this in, but butterflies are the most vibrant of most other animals.

When the light passes through the layers of the butterfly, the colors are reflected and the colors become intense.

This means that not all of the butterfly’s colors are created from their pigment, some of the colors are actually just light that is scattering around and making the colors look brighter and more vibrant.

When the pigment and the light is reflected, it can cause the butterflies colors to merge and make it where you see different colors when the butterfly flies.

Butterflies have the most beautiful colors that nature has to offer.

Not only are their colors vibrant, they can be seen high above while they are flying. The importance of a butterfly’s colors are that they can act as a camouflage to protect the butterfly from predators, the colors attract mates and they can be a warning signal for animals to leave them alone.

Blue Morpho

Why do butterflies migrate?

Butterflies, such as Monarch butterflies and other butterflies migrate toward places that are warmer, mainly because they are cold blooded creatures and they need to move where the weather is warmer so that they can live longer.

They will also migrate when the food source changes location because they need to be where there are flowers so that they can have food to give them energy.

If a butterfly is somewhere that the winter takes the flowers away, the butterfly will starve to death if they do not migrate.

Monarch butterflies, along with other species of butterflies, cannot survive most of the winters in the United States and so they will move toward the south to places that are warmer and that have food sources even when winter comes.

Places such as Mexico and California are places where many butterflies hibernate to and they will generally end up in the same place that the other butterflies migrated to and will eat nectar from the same trees that the butterflies the year before ate from.

Monarch butterflies are the only animal that will move 2,500 miles away each year in order to survive the climate.

When winter comes, butterflies cannot give birth to larval because there are no plants that grow and so they must migrate back to the north where there are many of these types of plants so that they can start their lifecycle again.

Other butterfly species that migrate include Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Cloudless Sulphur, Mourning Cloak, Fiery Skipper, Clouded Skipper, Question Mark, and Sachem, to name a few.

How do butterflies get their food?

Butterflies move from flower to flower in the garden so that they can get food.

They use their proboscis to put into the flower and suck out the nectar with their straw-like tongue.

The proboscis goes out from the front of the butterfly’s head and when it is finished drinking, it will roll the proboscis back up like a coil.

The proboscis is long and goes deep inside the flower in order to drink the nectar, water, dung or the juice from the fruit.

Some butterflies never see flowers and spend their time eating rotting animal matter, organic material, raw fruit, and tree sap.

The nectar is a high-calorie food that gives the butterfly the nutrients that it needs in order to fly, reproduce, and survive.

The butterfly will go from flower to flower in order to get as much of the nectar that it can get.

Having the nectar can help a butterfly to live longer than expected if it is getting the nutrients that it is needed and if it is hidden from its predators.

A caterpillar will only eat plants and plant matter from leaves and they do this by crawling a round and collecting the seeds that they can get.

Some species will eat seeds and seed pods but most of them destroy the plant by eating it in order to be able to turn into a butterfly.

How do butterflies defend themselves?

Many butterflies use two methods of defending themselves, their color, which is a warning and toxic tastes.

Many of these butterflies are toxic when they are eaten and if the predator digests these butterflies they become very sick or die.

Once the predator learns the color scheme of the butterfly, they will learn that the colors are dangerous to mess with and will leave them alone.

Some butterflies use what are called eyespots to protect themselves from predators.

These eyespots are located on the wings either underneath them, on top of them or both sides of them.

These spots are located on all the wings, the front and the back wings.

When a predator approaches the butterfly, they will show the spots and it causes the predator to sometimes depart and leave the butterfly alone.

Some butterflies have tiny eyespots on the edges of their wings and when the predator attacks, they are attracted to the eyespots and the butterfly can still fly away with just small amounts of damage.

One type of butterfly, the Swallowtail butterfly has antenna and eyes on the eyespots and when the predator goes to attack, they don’t know which way the butterfly is going to move and so they can get away from their attacker.

Other butterflies can protect themselves because they leave a bad taste in their predator’s mouth and others are poisonous if put in the predator’s mouth.

Most of the butterflies that are poisonous have a certain color pattern and so the predator will learn to leave these types of butterflies alone.

Monarch butterflies are orange and black and they are poisonous to their predators.

Most predators that live after eating a Monarch butterfly learn not to eat things that are black and orange anymore.

One type of butterfly lays their eggs on nettle leaves as a way of defending themselves.

They lay them even on the stinging part so that predators do not mess with the eggs.

They use the nettle leaves as places to feed and stay and this gives them protection both day and night.

Camouflage is another way that butterflies are protected. They use their colors to blend in with certain flowers and trees.

The butterflies are then protected from the predators by being able to be hidden from them.

Monarch Butterflies for kids

Monarch butterflies have one of the longest journeys of any butterfly and travel from the Northern Great Lakes area of the United States and Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico (about 1,800 miles).

The journey can’t be accomplished in one generation, so along the way they lay eggs which hatch and then once the next generation becomes a butterfly, they continue.

Scientists are concerned about the Monarch butterfly as their numbers are decreasing more and more each year.

It is believed that so much of the land that used to be wild and filled with their favorite food, the milkweed, has been replaced with farmlands and towns.

Many people in the United States have started planting ‘butterfly gardens’ and included the milkweed plant to help the Monarch butterfly.

They are using plants purchased from natural growers because the big box and chain stores add chemicals to the plants to keep away all insects, including butterflies.


What is the name of the species of this butterfly? - Biology

Figure 1. Dorsal view of the wings of an adult male viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

A typical representative of the genus Limenitis Fabricius is a black butterfly with white vertical stripes down its wings (from which they get their common name of admirals). The genus is Holarctic, with majority of species found in the Far East.

Figure 2. Dorsal view of an adult southern white admiral, Limenitis reducta Staudinger, a typical representative of the genus Limenitis. (Khosrov, Armenia.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 3. Ventral view of the wings of an adult male viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Synonymy (Back to Top)

Due to its unusual coloration caused by mimicry, Limenitis archippus is sometimes placed in a separate genus Basilarchia Scudder (Smith et al. 1994). However, this placement is not supported by modern research on the genus (Mullen, 2006).

Several synonyms have been described, among which are disippe, pseudodorippus, rubidus, and others. See the viceroy pages on the Butterflies of America Web site for a complete listing.

Distribution (Back to Top)

The species is found east of the U.S. Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges to Central Mexico and Florida in the south with stray specimens found in Cuba (Opler, Lotts and Naberhaus 2009 Alayo and Hernandez 1987).

There are seven described subspecies:

In addition to nominative Limenitis archippus archippus Cramer 1775, described from New York, which merges in Georgia with Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker 1878, there are several other more local subspecies. Limenitis archippus obsoleta Edwards 1882 flies in Utah and Arizona and is of conservation concern due to loss of habitat. Limenitis archippus hoffmanni Chermock 1947 is found in Mexico Limenitis archippus watsoni dos Pasos 1938 was described from Louisiana. Limenitis archippus idaho Austin 1998 and Limenitis archippus lahontani Herlan, 1971, were the most recently described subspecies - both found exclusively in Nevada (Pelham 2008). Illustrations of all these subspecies can be found on the Butterflies of America Web site.

Description (Back to Top)

The wing span of the adult ranges from 2 1/2 to 3 3/8 inches (6.3 to 8.6 cm). The viceroy is a very distinct butterfly for its genus, but can be confused with monarchs, queens, and soldiers, which it mimics in different parts of its range.

Viceroy forms occasional natural hybrids with the red spotted purple, Limenitis astyanax. Immature stages of the latter species are very similar to these of the viceroy.

Life Cycle (Back to Top)

Adults: Adult viceroy populations form two to three broods per year throughout most of its range, though perhaps reproduction is continuous in south Florida. Adult viceroys prefer wet habitat along ponds, swamps, and rivers, where their host plants frequently line the banks. Males actively perch in the late morning and early afternoon, looking out for females and defending their territory.

Eggs: The eggs are laid singly on tips of leaves, resembling galls.

Larvae: The first instar larvae hatch roughly five days after oviposition and construct perches by feeding on a tip of the leaf, but leaving the central vein intact. The young larvae, when not feeding, usually occupy that tip of the central vein. First instar larvae have no protrusions.

Figure 4. A 1st instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

The second instar larva has a saddle. If photoperiod is less than a given threshold, the third instar larva will diapause. It covers the stem of the leaf with silk all the way to the branch, hence securing it from falling off during winter. After consuming most of this leaf, a tube-like shelter is constructed.

Figure 5. A perching 2nd instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 6. A 3rd instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker, after hibernation. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 7. A 3rd instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker, after hibernation, sitting at the base of shelter in which it spent the winter. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

In the spring, the hibernating larva starts feeding on fresh willow leaves and completes its development in approximately three weeks. Larvae are cryptically colored throughout and possess increasingly long protrusions of the thoracic segment.

Figure 8. The 3rd instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker, starts feeding on fresh willow leaves in early spring following four months of hibernation. This specimen appears greatly desiccated. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 9. The 4th instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker, resembles a twig (left) or a bird dropping (right) depending on its position on the plant. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 10. Head of the 4th instar larva of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Pupae: The pupae are also cryptically colored.

Figure 11. Prepupa of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 12. Pupa of the viceroy, Limenitis archippus floridensis Strecker. (Natural Area Training Laboratory, University of Florida.) Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Hosts (Back to Top)

Caterpillars feed on trees in the willow family (Salicaceae) including willows (Salix), and poplars and cottonwoods (Populus) (Opler, Lotts and Naberhaus 2009).

Adult viceroys feed on a variety of flowers, preferring composites, but also, typically of Limenitidinae, will feed on rotten fruit, carrion, and feces. They sequester salicylic acid from substances ingested by the caterpillar from its host plant, which makes adults bitter to taste, hence its aposematic coloration and display behavior.

Economic Importance (Back to Top)

Limenitis archippus is the Kentucky state butterfly.

Because of the mimetic nature of viceroy's coloration and its ability to form hybrids with other North American Limenitis, the species received attention from biologists studying evolution and mimicry. For instance, a number of studies involving bird predation were conducted, using viceroys in conjunction with caged birds and other members of mimicry complex (Ritland 1991, Ritland and Brower 1991).

Due to the fact that viceroy populations were maintained in captivity, significant contributions to understanding photoperiodism and its role in triggering diapause in butterflies was achieved (Clark and Platt 1969, Hong and Platt 1975).

Perhaps the most important contribution of viceroys to general biology is in experimental interbreeding of mimetic and non-mimetic Limenitis, which showed how evolution of mimicry might have occurred (Platt 1975).

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Alayo PD, Hernandez LR. 1987. Atlas de las mariposas diurnas de Cuba (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera). La Habana: Editorial Cientifico-Tecnica.
  • Opler, PA, Lotts K, Naberhaus T. (2009). Viceroy, Limenitis archippus (Cramer, 1776). Butterflies and Moths of North America. (15 August 2015).
  • Clark SH, Platt AP. 1969. Influence of photoperiod on development and larval diapause in the viceroy butterfly, Limenitis archippus. Journal of Insect Physiology 15: 1951-1957.
  • Hong JW, Platt AP. 1975. Critical photoperiod and daylength threshold differences between northern and southern populations of the butterfly Limenitis archippus. Journal of Insect Physiology 21: 1159-1165.
  • Mullen, SP. 2006. Wing pattern evolution and the origins of mimicry among North American admiral butterflies (Nymphalidae: Limenitis). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39: 747-758.
  • Pelham JP. 2008. A catalogue of the butterflies of the United States and Canada. Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera 40: 1-658.
  • Platt AP. 1975. Monomorphic mimicry in nearctic Limenitis butterflies: experimental hybridization of the L. arthemis-astyanax complex with L. archippus source. Evolution 29: 120-141.
  • Platt AP, Coppinger RP, Brower LP. 1971. Demonstration of the selective advantage of mimetic Limenitis butterflies presented to caged avian predators. Evolution 25: 692-701.
  • Ritland DB. 1991. Revising a classic butterfly mimicry scenario: demonstration of Mullerian mimicry between Florida viceroys (Limenitis archippus floridensis) and queens (Danaus gilippus berenice). Evolution 45: 918-934.
  • Ritland DB, Brower LP. 1991. The viceroy butterfly is not a batesian mimic. Nature 350: 497-498.

Author: Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Photographs: Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Project Coordinator: Jennifer L. Gillett-Kaufman, University of Florida
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-458
Publication Date: June 2009. Reviewed: August 2015.


BugInfo Butterflies

Numbers of species. Due to their bright colors and visits to flowers, butterflies are the most familiar of insects to humans. There are about 17,500 species of butterflies in the world, and around 750 species in the United States.

Distinctive characteristics. Butterflies (and moths) are the only group of insects that have scales covering their wings, although some butterflies have reduced scales. They differ from other insects also by their ability to coil up their proboscis.

Immatures. Caterpillars are the names given to the larvae of both butterflies and moths. They are usually very distinctive, and in some cases may be identified more easily than the adults. When they are developing, their skin may be shed four or more times, with each molt often changing the coloration and appearance of the caterpillar. They eat voraciously to transform plant material into tissues that they will need for metamorphosis.

Plant associations. Butterflies are commonly associated with plants, and the relationship is sometimes complex. Immatures, with few exceptions, eat plants, and therefore may be considered harmful to the plants. However, butterflies are very important to many plants that are dependent upon flower-visiting insects for cross-pollination. Most butterfly caterpillars eat one, or sometimes several, related species of plants. Usually the choice is made by the adult female when depositing eggs. Adults usually feed on nectar from flowers of plants, although many butterflies feed instead on rotting fruit, dung, etc., especially in the tropics.

Migration. Butterfly migration is best exemplified by the Monarch, which is widely known to migrate in the fall to overwintering sites in California and Mexico. But in the United States, several other butterfly species engage in lesser migration distances. Some of these are the Buckeye, the Painted Lady, the Purple Wing, the Great Southern White, the Cloudless Sulphur, and the Little Sulphur.

Wing colors in butterflies appear in two types, pigment and structural, frequently combined in one individual. Pigment colors are familiar in paints, dyes, and inks, and are defined as specific substances with definite chemical composition. Structural colors are instead produced in a physical manner, similar to a rainbow. Morpho butterflies are the usual example of butterflies with structural color.

Vision. The vision of butterflies appears to be excellent, especially within short distances. They are able to fly with precision in areas of many obstacles.

Mating Behavior. Females are usually able to engage in mating on the day of emergence, but males do not normally mate for several days. Courtship rituals vary widely among species.

Classification. Butterflies are currently, with some arguments, placed into the following six families:

Hesperiidae. Known as "Skippers," containing relatively small, fast-flying species. About 3,000 worldwide species.

Lycaenidae. Blues, Hairstreaks and Coppers. Colors and patterns of sexes often differ. Over 5,000 world species.

Nymphalidae. Known as "Brush-footed" butterflies, contains many subfamilies. There are some 5,000 worldwide species.

Papilionidae. Known as "Swallowtail, butterflies, most species have prominent "tails." Some 600 species in the world.

Pieridae. Known as "Yellows and Whites, they have those colors predominantly. More than 1,000 worldwide species.

Riodinidae. Known as metalmarks, are sometimes placed in the Family Lycaenidae. About 1,000 species in the world.

Selected References:

  • Carter, David. 1992. Butterflies and Moths (Eyewitness Handbooks). Dorling Kindersley, Inc., New York.
  • Opler, P. A. and Krizek, G. O. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  • Opler, P. A. and Malikul, V. 1992. A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Pyle, R. M. 1981. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
  • Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

Prepared by the Department of Systematic Biology, Entomology Section,
National Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
Smithsonian Institution


Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae). The genus name Asclepias is named after the Greek god of medicine Asklepios. The species name tuberose refers to the tuberous (knobby and with swellings) roots.

Butterfly weed grows commonly in dry open habitats and is very common in the prairies and grasslands of the Midwest and Great Plains. This beautiful native wildflower is found from Maine to South Dakota to the desert southwest to Florida.

Native Americans harvested fibers from the dried stems that were made into ropes and used in weaving cloth. Many tribes used various parts of the butterfly weed as food. In colonial America, dried leaves of butterfly weed and skunk cabbage were made into a tea to treat chest inflammations thus giving butterfly weed an alternative name: pleurisy root. Pleurisy root was listed in the American Pharmacopoeia and the National Formulary until 1936.

Butterfly weed is a coarse perennial forb consisting of many stems. The stems are straight and very hairy. The leaves are alternate and simple. Unlike other species of milkweed butterfly weed does not contain the characteristic thick milky sap but instead has a watery translucent sap. The inflorescence is slightly rounded to flat and made up many individual flowers. The flower consists of five petals pointing down and topped by a crown of five erect hoods. The fruit is a pod containing numerous brown seed each with a tuft of silky white hairs. Many a child and adult have gleefully pulled the seeds from a ripened, opened pod and let them float gracefully on a gentle breeze.

Butterfly weed is commonly planted in formal garden borders and in meadow and prairie gardens. This wildflower does not transplant well as it has a deep woody taproot. It is easily propagated from seed. Collect the seed from the pods has they just begin to open. Butterfly weed seed need a three-month cold stratification. Therefore, it is best to plant the seed in autumn and they will easily germinate the following spring.

For More Information

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo by T.G. Barnes.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo by Daniel Reed, courtesy of the University of Tennessee Herbarium.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Photo by Elaine Haug, courtesy Smithsonian.


Scientists Complete Butterfly Evolutionary Tree

First comprehensive map of butterfly evolution: branch support is color coded according to the support thresholds indicated on the legend, and the shape indicates whether the branch was supported using one or more methods pie charts on certain nodes in Lycaenidae and Riodinidae indicate the probability of ant association (red) and no ant association (blue) based on ancestral state reconstruction ants before tribe/subfamily names indicate at least one ant-associated species in the group question marks denote taxa for which no data on ant association could be found. POLYOMMAT, PL – Polyommatinae, TH – Theclinae, PORITI – Poritiinae, NEM – Nemeobiinae, HED – Hedylidae, PARN – Parnassiinae, PAP – Papilionidae. Image credit: Espeland et al, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.061.

Dr. Akito Kawahara, a researcher with the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity on the University of Florida campus, and co-authors produced a butterfly evolutionary tree with a 35-fold increase in genetic data and three times as many taxa as previous studies.

“We still have a long way to go, but this is the first comprehensive map of butterfly evolution,” Dr. Kawahara said.

“Lots of previous studies cover butterfly evolution on smaller scales — by locality or taxon — but surprisingly few have reached across the breadth of butterfly diversity.”

The researchers analyzed a dataset of 352 genetic markers from 207 butterfly species representing 98% of tribes, which are a rank above genus but below family and subfamily.

Their findings paint a detailed picture of relationships between butterflies and point to some name changes.

The data confirm that swallowtails are a sister group to all other butterflies, meaning they were the first family on the butterfly family tree to branch off.

But while previous literature groups swallowtails, birdwings, zebra swallowtails and swordtails together, this study shows they do not share a common ancestor, a finding supported by the fact that these butterflies feed on different host plants.

“That tells us that butterflies and plants may have evolved together,” Dr. Kawahara said.

A finding that surprised the team is that the blues are nested within the hairstreaks.

“Both of these groups have remained quite stable through time, but our study shows that a substantial rearrangement of the classification is necessary,” said lead author Dr. Marianne Espeland, who started the project as a postdoctoral researcher at the Florida Museum and is now curator and head of the Lepidoptera section at the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany.

Most blues and hairstreaks and some metalmarks have mutually beneficial relationships with ants: butterfly larvae provide sugary nectar in exchange for the ants’ protection from predators.

The scientists found this association evolved once in blues and hairstreaks and twice in metalmarks.

Previous studies suggest the first butterflies date back more than 100 million years, a date this study supports.

But most of the lineages that exist today originated after the mass extinction event that killed off non-avian dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.

“It is actually quite nice that the ages inferred in this study are relatively similar to those found in previous studies since this means that we are gradually converging towards a consensus, which should be close to the correct ages,” Dr. Espeland said.

“One curious finding is that the phylogeny suggests butterfly-moths — the only butterflies known to be nocturnal — developed hearing organs before bats, their primary predator, appeared,” Dr. Kawahara said.

“I’m fascinated by the timing of when these hearing organs developed and why. There’s a lot of mystery and uncertainty here.”


What is the name of the species of this butterfly? - Biology

The monarchs, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, are among the best known of the world's butterflies, due to their remarkable ability to migrate, wide distribution, and charismatic appearance. The last Pleistocene glaciations in North America instigated migration to Mexico in the east and to Californian coast and deserts in the west. In the western U.S., the overwintering colonies are smaller and more numerous, while in Mexico, they are few, but more spectacular, with billions of butterflies concentrating in one spot.

Figure 1. Adult monarchs, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, from Gainesville, Florida. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 2. Adult monarchs, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, migrating at their Mexican overwintering site in Sierra Madre, Michoacán. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Distribution (Back to Top)

Danaus plexippus is found throughout the Americas and Australia, with individuals reported in New Guinea and Western Europe. Sedentary populations that are found in Mexico, Central and South America (including the Caribbean islands) are somewhat different from migratory populations of D. p. plexippus found in North America. Several subspecies, such as M. p. megalippe (Mexico, southern U.S.) and M. p. menippe (South America) have been described. Monarchs fly from sea level up to 2,500 meters.

Some of the D. p. plexippus reach Cuba instead of Mexico, where they mix with the resident population of D. p. megalippe, from which they noticeably differ in behavior and wing length and shape (Dockx 2007).

Figure 3. Adult monarch, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, emerging on Christmas day in the resident population in North Florida, Gainesville. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 4. Adult migrating monarch, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, in Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Description (Back to Top)

Orange-and-black warning coloration of monarchs is noticeable, and its memorable pattern is directed at repelling insectivorous birds. Experiments conducted with captive blue jays showed that monarchs indeed are toxic (Brower et al. 1968). Being distasteful due to ingestion by larvae and sequestration by adults of cardenolides that are toxic to birds, monarch serves as a model for several mimetic species and is frequently confused with the viceroy (Limenitis archippus (Cramer, 1776)) and queen (Danaus gilippus (Cramer, 1775)) butterflies. That mimicry is considered to be Müllerian, with all species involved being distasteful to some degree and contributing to each others' defense (Ritland and Brower 1991).

Figure 5. Viceroy butterfly, Limenitis archippus (Cramer, 1776), upperside, Gainesville, Florida a mimic of the monarch, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 6. Viceroy butterfly, Limenitis archippus (Cramer, 1776), underside, Gainesville, Florida a mimic of the monarch, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Other than its mimics, the monarch can be confused with very few other butterflies. However, on the islands of Hispaniola and Jamaica, a smaller Jamaican monarch, Danaus cleophile (Godart, 1819), can be found flying together with the D. plexippus.

Figure 7. Jamaican monarch, Danaus cleophile (Godart, 1819), ovipositing on Asclepias nivea in Cordillera Central, Dominican Republic. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Biology and Life Cycle (Back to Top)

Monarchs lay their eggs singly on underside of the leaf and sometimes on the flowers of different milkweeds (Asclepidaceae: Asclepias).

Figure 8. Egg of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, on the underside of the leaf of scarlet milkweed, Asclepias curassavica, Gainesville, Florida. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

The first instar larva is white with a black head. The larva develops a more conspicuous striated yellow-and-black coloration in the second instar. This coloration varies depending on subspecies in mature larvae. Larvae also develop two thoracic and two abdominal dorsal filaments.

Figure 9. First instar larva of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, hatches from the egg, which it immediately consumes. Gainesville, Florida. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 10. Fourth instar larva of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, Gainesville, Florida. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 11. Fifth instar larva of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, feeding on scarlet milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 12. Close-up of the head of a fifth instar larva of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, feeding on scarlet milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

The pupa (chrysalis) is formed by the larva hanging on a substrate, such as underside of leaves and twigs, usually away from the host plant. When formed, it is green with gold markings.

Figure 13. Pupa of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 14. Adult monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, emerging from the pupal case. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Development from egg to adult takes less than a month. In North America, the monarchs go through at least four generations a year, before they start migrating south in the Fall.

Adults are strong fliers and can fly for 11 hours straight. In the Fall, enough fat is stored in the adults to allow a continuous 1000 km flight without feeding. Some make a journey of a total of 4000 km to reach overwintering sites in the Sierra Madre de Oriente, where they settle inside the coniferous forest of the state of Michoacán. Monarchs also fly across Gulf of Mexico with overwater flights of 600 km.

Figure 15. Adult monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, covering fir trees in the overwintering colony at El Rosario, in Sierra Madre, Michoacán, Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 16. Close-up of adult monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, covering fir trees in the overwintering colony at El Rosario, in Sierra Madre, Michoacán, Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 17. Adult monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, migrating at their Mexican overwintering site in Sierra Madre, Michoacán, Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 18. Close-up of an adult monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, migrating at its Mexican overwintering site in Sierra Madre, Michoacán, Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

A tagging program was initiated by F. A. Urquhart of the Royal Ontario Museum in the 1950s and is continued to this day. It allowed scientists to determine the migration path of monarchs.

Figure 19. Tagged adult monarch, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, Gainesville, Florida, released during the Butterfly Festival, October 2007. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Monarchs feed extensively on the way, accumulating body fat sufficient to last them through the winter. At the overwintering sites in Mexico, the monarchs spend over four months in a reproductive diapause. They feed and drink as the weather warms up, but return to their resting sites.

Figure 20. Adult monarchs, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, drinking at the creek in El Rosario Colony, Michoacán, Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 21. Adult monarchs, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, sunning themselves before going to feed, El Rosario overwintering colony, Michoacán, Mexico. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 22. Adult monarch, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, feeding. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Courtship behavior of monarchs has been described in detail and consists of a mating ritual, where male grasps the female in the air and brings her down to the ground, where mating occurs. Mating occurs several times, both during the summer and at the overwintering sites. Mating attempts frequently fail due to resisting by females (e.g., Frey, 1997).

Monarchs begin to fly north in March, reproducing along the way. Migration north continues, with the second and third generations recolonizing the continent.

The ability to navigate to the overwintering sites is genetic and is linked to time-compensated sun compass orientation. This ability requires constant recalibration of genetic program by changing surrounding. It is linked to the activity of the central complex is a midline structure consisting of protocerebral bridge and central body in Monarch's brain.

Geomagnetic forces are probably used as monarchs get closer to their overwintering sites, since the migratory monarchs' bodies contain higher quantities of magnetic material than non-migrating butterflies. The vicinity of overwintering sites in the Mexican Transvolcanic Range contains high level of magnetic anomalies, which probably helps monarchs to find them. Social behavior and pheromones probably also play large role in choosing the overwintering site.

To understand migration, the gene expression patterns that define the migrating monarchs are being investigated. Specific genes are regulated by juvenile hormone, which is responsible for interruption of reproductive behavior and initiation of migration. Micro RNAs regulate gene expression, and each miRNA can regulate several proteins. In other systems, miRNAs are involved in epigenetic developmental events. They may be involved in initiating/mediating the migratory state in monarch butterflies. Recent analysis of genomes of migratory and non-migratory monarchs shows that monarchs originated in North America from a migratory ancestor. The effort to assess genome of monarchs, which proves to be smaller than in other butterflies, and more similar in size to that of mosquitoes is being made (Zhu et al. 2008).

Monarchs are great model organisms for researching many general questions about animals in general. For instance, recent studies conducted on monarchs allowed for understanding the evolution and function of cryptochrome proteins in animals (Zhu et al. 2008). Cryptochromes are critical for circadian timing in butterfly's clock mechanism. In monarchs, one of the cryptochromes functions as a likely circadian photoreceptor, while another appears to function as the major transcriptional repressor of the clockwork transcriptional feedback loop.

Hosts and Monarch Toxicity (Back to Top)

Monarch toxicity has been linked to the toxicity of the plants upon which they feed. Monarchs oviposit on milkweeds of the genus Asclepias from which the caterpillars collect the cardiac glycosides toxic to birds. These substances are passed on to the adult butterflies, which are also toxic. The idea of automimicry (that some monarchs are more toxic than others, but that the birds, unable to distinguish between the traits, avoid all of them) has been investigated (Brower et al. 1970). Apparently, there are costs and benefits to the ingestion of glycosides, since it was shown that monarch females prefer plants with intermediate cardenolide level, rejecting higher and lower level-containing plants (Oyeyele and Zalucki, 2008).

Figure 23. Adult monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus, feeding on flower of scarlet milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. Photograph by Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History.

Figure 24. Pinewoods milkweed, Asclepias humistrata Walter (Apocynaceae), a host of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Jerry Butler, University of Florida.

Figure 25. White swamp milkweed, Asclepias perennis Walter (Apocynaceae), a host of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Donald Hall, University of Florida.

Figure 26. Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa L. (Apocynaceae)), a host of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Donald Hall, University of Florida.

Figure 27. Pink swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata L. (Apocynaceae), a host of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Donald Hall, University of Florida

Figure 28. Scarlet milkweed, Asclepias curassavica L. (Apocynaceae), a host of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Donald Hall, University of Florida.

Figure 29. Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca L. (Apocynaceae), a host of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus Linnaeus. Photograph by Donald Hall, University of Florida.

Conservation Status (Back to Top)

Monarchs are not endangered as a species due to many sedentary populations in the south of its range. However, the deforestation around their overwintering sites in Mexico puts the northeastern population of monarch and the remarkable phenomenon of migration in danger. For instance, in 2002 severe winter weather killed off an estimated 80% of Monarchs in overwintering colonies in Sierra Chincua and Sierra Campanario, with some colonies reduced in size by 90% (Brower et al. 2004). In late August 2014, the Xerces Society, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Dr. Lincoln Brower submitted a petition to the Secretary of the Interior requesting the Monarch butterfly be listed as &ldquothreatened&rdquo under the Endangered Species Act.

A few years ago, the controversy over the influence of Bt corn on Monarch mortality arose. However, though mortality due to ingestion of corn pollen does occur, it has been shown that its effect on Monarch population might not be as dramatic as was initially thought (Auman-Bauer 2001).

Natural Enemies (Back to Top)

Birds such as black-beaked orioles and black-headed grosbeaks attack monarchs at their overwintering sites. Apparently the toxins deteriorate during the migration, hence the birds can eat them. Orioles slit open the monarchs' abdomens avoiding most of the toxins in the cuticle. Grosbeaks eat the entire abdomen and can tolerate higher levels of cardenolides. These two bird account for over 60% of the total monarch mortality. Among other vertebrates, rats have been observed feeding on monarchs at overwintering sites.

Invertebrate predators such as ants, spiders, and wasps attack monarch larvae on milkweed plants. Tachinid flies and braconid wasps are known to parasitise larvae. Several entomopathogenic organisms can infect monarchs, including a nuclear polyhedrosis virus and Pseudomonas bacteria, protozoan parasites such as Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, and a microsporidian Nosema species (McLaughlin and Myers 2007).

Selected References (Back to Top)

  • Ackery PR, Vane-Wright RI. 1984. Milkweed Butterflies, their Cladistics and Biology. London: British Museum (Natural History). 425 pp.
  • Auman-Bauer K. (2003). Bt Corn & Monarch Butterflies. Biotechnology Food and Agriculture. http://unveiled.info/monsanto/newsnviews/monarch2.htm (18 August 2011).
  • Brower LP, William NR, Coppinger LL, and Glazier SC. 1968. Ecological chemistry and palatability spectrum. Science 161: 1349-1350.
  • Brower LP, Pough FH, Meck HR. 1970. Theoretical Investigations of Automimicry, I. Single Trial Learning. PNAS 66: 1059-1066.
  • Brower LP. 1985. Biological rationale for the conservation of the overwintering sites of the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus L., in the states of Michoacan and México. Pages 66-88. In Primer simposium internacional de fauna silvestre. Secretaria de Desaarrolo Urbano y Ecologia, México City.
  • Brower LP. 1995a. Understanding and misunderstanding the migration of the monarch butterfly (Nymphalidae) in North America: 1857-1995. Journal of the Lepidopterist's Society 49: 304-385.
  • Brower LP. 1995b. Revision a los mitos de Jurgen Hoth. Ciencias 39: 50-51.
  • Brower LP. 1996. Forest thinning increases monarch butterfly mortality by altering the microclimate of the overwintering sites in México: Decline and conservation of butterflies in Japan III. Pages 33-44. In Ae SA, Hirowatari T, Ishii M, Brower LP (editors). Proceedings of the international symposium on butterfly conservation, 1994. The Lepidopterological Society of Japan, Osaka.
  • Brower LP. 1999a. Para comprehendar la migracion de la mariposa monarca (1857-1995). Instituto Nacional de Ecologîa, México, D.F.
  • Brower LP. 1999b. Biological necessities for monarch butterfly overwintering in relation to the oyamel forest ecosystem in México. Pages 11-28. In Hoth J, Merino L, Oberhauser K, Pisanty I, Price S, Wilkinson T (editors). Paper presentations: 1997 North American conference on the monarch butterfly. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Montreal.
  • Brower LP. 1999c. Oyamel forest ecosystem conservation in México is necessary to prevent the extinction of the migratory phenomenon of the monarch butterfly in North America. Pages 41-50. In Proceedings of a symposium on Animal Migration, 1997. United Nations Environment Program and Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Bonn and The Hague.
  • Brower LP, Missrie M. 1998. Fires in the monarch butterfly sanctuaries in México, Spring 1998. Que Pasa (Toronto) 3: 9-11.
  • Brower LP, Castilleja G, Peralta A, Lopez-Garcia J, Bojorquez-Tapia L, Diaz S, Melgarejo D, and Missrie M. 2002. Quantitative changes in forest quality in a principal overwintering area of the monarch butterfly in Mexico, 1971-1999. Conservation Biology 16: 346-359.
  • Brower LP et al. 2004. Catastrophic winter storm mortality of Monarch butterflies in Mexico during January 2002. In The Monarch Butterfly: biology & conservation. By Oberhauser KS, Solensky MJ. Cornell University Press. 248 pages.
  • Dockx C. 2007. Directional and stabilizing selection on wing size and shape in migrant and resident monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus (L.), in Cuba. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 92: 605-616.
  • Frey D. 1997. Resistance to mating by female monarch butterflies. North American Conference on the Monach Butterfly, Jürgen Hoth (editor). 428 pp.
  • Froy O, Gotter AL, Casselman AL, Reppert SM. 2003. Illuminating the circadian clock in the monarch butterfly migration. Science 300: 1303-1305.
  • Hansen JLC, Obrycki JJ. 2000. Field deposition of Bt transgenic corn pollen: lethal effects on the monarch butterfly. Oecologia 125: 241-248.
  • Malcolm SB, Brower LP. 1989. Evolutionary and ecological implications of cardenolide sequestration in the monarch butterfly. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 45: 284-295.
  • McLaughlin RE, Myers J. 2007. Ophryocystis elektroscirrha sp. n., a Neogregarine pathogen of the monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus (L.) and the Florida queen butterfly D. gilippus berenice Cramer. Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology 17: 300-305.
  • Medley JC, Fasulo TR. (1998). Florida Butterfly Tutorials. University of Florida/IFAS. CD-ROM. SW 155.
  • Oyeyele SO, Zalucki MP. 2008. Cardiac glycosides and oviposition by Danaus plexippus on Asclepias fruticosa in south-east Queensland (Australia), with notes on the effect of plant nitrogen content. Ecological Entomology 15: 177-185.
  • Pierce AA, Zalucki MP, Bangura M , Udawatta M , Kronforst MR , Altizer S, Haeger JF, de Roode JC . 2014. Serial founder effects and genetic differentiation during worldwide range expansion of monarch butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20142230
  • Pyle RM. 1984. International efforts for monarch conservation, and conclusion. Atala 9: 21-22.
  • Reppert SM. (2007) The ancestral circadian clock of monarch butterflies: Role in time-compensated sun compass orientation. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 72: 113-118.
  • Ritland DB, Brower LP. 1991. The viceroy butterfly is not a batesian mimic. Nature 350: 497-498.
  • Sauman I, Briscoe AD, Zhu H, Shi D, Froy O, Stalleichen J, Yuan Q, Casselman A, Reppert SM. 2005. Connecting the navigational clock to sun compass input in monarch butterfly brain. Neuron 46: 457-467.
  • ScienceDaily. (March 2009). Genetic basis for migration in monarch butterflies uncovered. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090330200615.htm (20 April 2009).
  • Xerces.org. 2014. FAQs on the Monarch Butterfly Endangered Species Act Petition. http://www.xerces.org/publications/petitions-comments/faqs-on-monarch-butterfly-endangered-species-act-petition
  • Zhan S, Zhang W, Niitepõld K, Hsu J, Haeger JF, Zalucki MP, Altizer S, de Roode JC, Reppert SM, Kronforst MR. 2014. The genetics of monarch butterfly migration and warning colouration. Nature 514: 317-321.
  • Zhu H, Sauman I, Yuan Q, Casselman A, Emery-Le M, Emery P, Reppert SM. 2008. Cryptochromes define a novel circadian clock mechanism in monarch butterflies that may underlie sun compass navigation. PLoS Biol 6, e4.
  • Zhu H, Casselman A, Reppert SM. 2008. Chasing migration genes: A brain expressed sequence tag resource for summer and migratory monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). PLoS One 3, e1293.

Author: Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Photographs: Andrei Sourakov, Florida Museum of Natural History Don Hall and Jerry Butler, Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida
Web Design: Don Wasik, Jane Medley
Publication Number: EENY-442
Publication Date: April 2009. Latest revision: December 2014. Reviewed: October 2017. Revised: April 2021.


Butterfly Biology

Butterflies that appear to have only four legs belong to the family Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies. Taxonomists do not agree unanimously on this classification trait Nymphalidae is made up of several subfamilies that were once considered families. Currently Nymphalidae includes subfamilies such as Heliconiinae, Morphinae, Danainae, and Satyrinae.

The truth is, Nymphalids have six legs like other insects, but the forelegs have been greatly reduced through evolution and lack claws. So these butterflies walk on only four legs, even though they actually have six.

Butterflies that appear to have only four legs belong to the family Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies. Taxonomists do not agree unanimously on this classification trait Nymphalidae is made up of several subfamilies that were once considered families. Currently Nymphalidae includes subfamilies such as Heliconiinae, Morphinae, Danainae, and Satyrinae.

The truth is, Nymphalids have six legs like other insects, but the forelegs have been greatly reduced through evolution and lack claws. So these butterflies walk on only four legs, even though they actually have six.


Butterfly FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are Butterflies herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Butterflies are Herbivores, meaning they eat plants.

What Kingdom do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What phylum do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the phylum Arthropoda.

What class do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the class Insecta.

What order do Butterflies belong to?

Butterflies belong to the order Lepidoptera.

Where do Butterflies live?

Butterflies are found worldwide.

In what type of habitat do Butterflies live?

Butterflies live in quiet forests and pastures.

What do Butterflies eat?

Butterflies eat nectar, pollen, and honey.

What are some predators of Butterflies?

Predators of Butterflies include bats, frogs, small mammals, and reptiles.


Watch the video: Different Types Of Butterflies And Their Names. Learn About Butterflies (May 2022).