Double Mimic

Red-spotted Purple Caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple Caterpillar

My daughter sent me this photograph of a caterpillar that hitched a ride on her skirt when she was on her way to the grocery store. It is the larva of a Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis anthemis). It has a striking color pattern because it tries to fool predators by mimicking a bird dropping. These caterpillars will eat the leaves of many trees including wild cherry and willow.

Red-spotted Purple Butterfly

Red-spotted Purple Butterfly

Here is a photograph of an adult Red-spotted Purple butterfly that I saw on our back deck last summer. The blue iridescence on its wings is very striking. Red-spotted Purples are thought to gain some protection from birds by mimicking the Pipe Vine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), which is very distasteful to birds.

Red-spotted Purple underwing pattern

Red-spotted Purple underwing pattern

This photograph shows the underwing pattern of the Red-spotted Purple. The two orange bars near the front of the forewing and the three orange spots near the base of the hindwing are diagnostic.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.