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White Admiral Butterflies Puddling

If you’ve been traveling on sunny dirt roads lately, chances are that you have seen White Admiral butterflies all over them. They are in the road to obtain salts and minerals that have leached from the soil into standing puddles and moist dirt. Because butterflies do not have chewing mouthparts as adults, they must drink their meals. While nectar is their main source of nutrition, males often supplement their diet with these minerals. The act of acquiring nutrients in this manner is referred to as “puddling.” If there’s no water around, a butterfly may regurgitate into the soil and then drink in the hope of retrieving minerals. In addition to finding butterflies on dirt roads, look for them puddling on animal scat.

8 responses

  1. Fran Ludwig

    Can you check the Red-spotted purple ID? I have them as separate species. Thanks for the great photos!!!

    June 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    • Fran, I’ve done some research, and although the White Admiral and Red-spotted Purple used to be considered two different species, they are now considered “conspecific,” or the same species. The White Admiral is more common in northern N.E. and the Red-spotted Purple in southern N.E. Where their ranges overlap, they interbreed. The Red-spotted Purple lacks the White Admiral white stripes, and is bluer in color. The intermediates, where they overlap, have characteristics of both. Hope this isn’t as confusing as it may sound! Both are referred to as Limenitis arthemis.

      June 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

  2. Ned Jacoby

    Mary – For the last week or so I’ve seen lots of little white butterflies. They have a wing span of 1.5 to 2 inches. Looked through the 14 butterflies in your photo file and surprised not to find it. Probably too common to even mention?. Regards, Ned

    June 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    • Hi Ned,
      I am anything but a butterfly expert, and do not know the identity of the one you have been seeing. Any chance you could send me a photograph of one? Mary

      June 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

  3. Traveling the back roads of Rumney NH yesterday I must have seen 100 of these guys, and nearly drove off the road trying to avoid them a dozen times. I really appreciate the timeliness of your blog posts, Mary. They’re always so educating. Thanks as always for offering up your knowledge!

    June 17, 2012 at 12:27 am

    • Do you think anyone but you and I swerve back and forth to avoid them? I’m sure I’ll cause an accident one of these days, but can’t help myself! Nice to know another crazy driver!

      June 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

  4. Carmen VandeGriek

    What i find so fascinating about this butterfly is that the other side of the wings are such a different color!

    June 18, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  5. Won’t be long before auto insurance companies have different rates for naturalists…

    June 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

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