To clarify yesterday’s post on mimicry, here are the Viceroy and Monarch, side by side. Note the horizontal black line across the hindwings of the Viceroy. The (larger) Monarch lacks this line.
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A plump caterpillar is irresistible to many insect-eating birds, and some of them (notably Viceroys and Giant Swallowtails) have outfoxed their predators by assuming the appearance of bird droppings, which one assumes is a far less appealing meal. They do this using color, pattern, choice of resting place and even position – contorting their bodies to match the shape of bird droppings. The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) uses this technique during its later larval and pupal stages.
The adult Viceroy butterfly also uses mimicry to enhance its survival, but it mimics another butterfly — the Monarch — not bird droppings. Both the Viceroy and the Monarch are unpalatable and contribute to each other’s protection from birds with this strategy, a relationship known as Mullerian mimicry.
In New England there can be up to three broods of Viceroys, with the larvae of some of the second brood and all of the third brood overwintering and pupating in the spring.
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