Creature Feature: Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)
By Emma Dean, CG Science Editor
The Red-spotted Purple female butterfly lays gray-green eggs on the leaf tips of host trees such as wild cherry, aspen, poplar, oaks, birch and willow. As adult butterflies, Red-spotted Purples prefer open wooded areas as well as the edges of deciduous regions. These butterflies are common throughout a good portion of the eastern United States and if the Red-spotted Purple’s range of habitat overlaps the boundaries of those of the White Admiral, the two species have been known to interbreed and create a hybrid.
Though the Red-spotted Purples choose to live in somewhat wooded vicinities, they can often be located resting on the ground, absorbing nutrients from gravel roads or roadsides. They also receive nutrients through the nectar of plants, but really prefer a diet consisting of sap, rotting fruit, carrion and dung.
The males of this species routinely perch about three feet about the ground on trees and taller bushes. They take exploratory flights, but rarely survey the area for females.
- The wing span is between 2 ¼ to 4 inches wide.
- The Red-spotted Purple has two broods—one during late May through July and the second in July into August.
- Though a member of the brush-footed butterflies, the Red-spotted Purple resembles a swallowtail in appearance.
- The Red-spotted Purple butterfly has been known to interbreed with the White Admiral butterfly.