For several weeks White Admiral butterflies have been a common sight along dirt roads, where they obtain nutrients from damp soil. They are a kind of “brush-footed butterfly,” having reduced forelegs that are folded up and often bear a brush-like set of hairs. Like most other butterflies in their genus (Limenitis), White Admirals fly with alternating quick wingbeats and flat-winged glides. It is not unusual to see males perched on trees along trails or forest clearings, waiting for females to come along.
After years of White Admirals and Red-spotted Purples being classified as different species, they are now considered to be one and the same species, even though their appearance is quite different. (Red-spotted Purples lack the bold white banding on their wings that helps break up the outline of White Admirals.) Where their ranges overlap, which includes New England, individuals with characteristics of both of these butterflies are seen with some regularity. Look for White Admirals, Red-spotted Purples and intermediates feeding on rotting fruit, in dirt roads, scat and flowers throughout the Northeast.
Monarch Butterflies are not the only insects whose lives are dramatically affected by the current precarious health of the Common Milkweed population. Clockwise, starting middle, top: Yellowjacket worker chewing insect to feed to larvae; White Admiral drinking nectar; Jumping Spider drinking fly innards; deceased butterfly trapped by getting proboscis caught in stigmatic slit ; Small Milkweed Bugs mating; Assassin Bug feeding on ant; Red Milkweed Beetle; Virginia Ctenucha Moth drinking nectar.