Think you know our mystery butterfly? The answer is not quite as easy as it seems….
The butterfly shown above is a Viceroy, a species often confused with the popular Monarch Butterfly. The two do look very similar, it is widely believed that the Viceroy mimics the bright coloration of the Monarch in order to avoid being eaten. Because Monarch caterpillars feast on milkweed, their bodies contain toxins. Most predators know to leave the Monarch alone, as the toxins are bad tasting and can even be poisonous. The Viceroy would actually be a tasty treat to most predators- the caterpillars feed on cottonwood leaves and various willow species, neither of which are known to be poisonous. Mimicry is the Viceroy’s best defense.
Here is how to tell the difference between a Monarch and Viceroy: