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White Admiral Butterfly (Limenitis arthemis)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the White Admiral Butterfly



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Image Credit: Elizabeth and Desmond L. taken in Bon Echo Provincial Park, ON
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Image Credit: Alex -icycatelf- Bowen
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Image Credit: Kathleen P., taken in Schuyler Lake, NY
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Variations in orange color and geographic range gave rise to subspecies and, hence, multiple names for the White Admiral Butterfly.



Updated: 07/14/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A typical White Admiral in Canada is mostly black with a white band on the top side and a few dark orange dots on the underside of the wings. This variation is the unofficial insect of Quebec. The Red-Spotted Purple variation is more commonly seen in the southeast U.S. and is mostly black with no white on the top side, but has lots of blue coloring and bright orange spots underneath. An identical butterfly found in the Southwest has a different subspecies name simply because its location is so far away from the southeastern subspecies. Both mimic the toxic Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. The Western White Admiral lives in Alaska and western Canada, and this variation has the black body and white band like the typical White Admiral, but adds orange spots to both the top and bottom sides of the wings.

All this means is that it may take a bit more time to sort out which type of Admiral one is observing in the wild, and location matters. Males can be found perching one meter or 3 feet above ground on shrubs and other plants while patrolling for intruders and for females. Adults drink liquids from rotting carcasses, animal dung, tree sap, and decaying flowers. Look for them in mixed forests or deciduous woodlands.

Caterpillars feed on chokecherry, birch, poplar, cottonwood, and willow leaves. They are brown and ivory with a random color pattern that helps them look like bird droppings on a branch. They have a pair of black, hairy horns at one end and pairs of bumps along the body.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Lepidoptera
        Family: Nymphalidae
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          Genus: Limenitis
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            Species: arthemis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Limenitis arthemis
Other Name(s): Western White Admiral, Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly
Category: Butterfly or Moth
Size (Adult; Length): 75mm to 100mm (2.95" to 3.93")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, white, blue, orange
Descriptors: flying, spotted
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 75mm (3.0in) and 100mm (3.9in)
Lo: 75mm
Md: 87.5mm
Hi: 100mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the White Admiral Butterfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the White Admiral Butterfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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