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Four species of Admiral butterflies are found in North America, but this number is debated by scientists. They debate if there are as few two species or as many as five or six. Because members of different species can mate, their offspring are a blend of both species. This makes it difficult to define the number of species. Some species tend to blend where their ranges overlap. This may lead to entire populations of hybrid (mixed species) butterflies in these “blend” zones. In Europe and Asia, there are one or more species that are very different from the species found in North America. (Bartlett, 2012)

What do they look like?

Admiral butterflies are large butterflies that don’t have tails or extra parts on their wings. The species of this genus have very different colorings. They may be confused with the species queens, members of the genera sisters and monarchs, and the family called swallowtails. (Bartlett, 2012)

The caterpillars of the different species look very similar. It can be hard to tell the species apart. Caterpillars look rough and have large bumps. They have two large bumpy horns. Caterpillars are dark brown or green in color. They may have spots of white or cream color. They look like bird droppings. Swallowtail caterpillars may look similar to those of this genus, but they lack the horns. (Bartlett, 2012)

Where do they live?

Species of the genus Limenitis, known as admiral butterflies, are found across North America. Some species are found in the temperate parts of Europe and Asia. (Bartlett, 2012)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Admiral butterflies are found in sunny areas of wooded areas like forests and mountains. Caterpillars of this genus are most often found near their host plants. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • These animals are found in the following types of habitat
  • temperate
  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

Admiral butterflies, like other butterflies, go through complete metamorphosis. This means that the caterpillars change into very different adult butterflies. Members of this genus overwinter as larvae. They build a cocoon made from part of a rolled leaf and shelter through the winter. (Bartlett, 2012)

How do they reproduce?

Admirals breed seasonally and use sexual reproduction. Females lay eggs. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement

How long do they live?

Most adults live from late spring to early summer. They produce one batch of young each year. In the south, multiple generations may live throughout the year. Members of this genus last through the winter as larvae. (Bartlett, 2012)

How do they communicate with each other?

Admiral butterflies communicate through visual and chemical manners. They utilize vision and chemical methods for perception.

What do they eat?

Larvae are laid on and feed on host plants. They prefer members of the family Salicaceae, such as poplars and willows. They may also consume members of the family Rosaceae, including apple, serviceberry, and cherry. They are rarely seen feeding on alder, birch, oak, lindens, and vaccinium. Adults feed on nectar. (Bartlett, 2012)

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Some species of admiral butterflies use mimicry to avoid predators. Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus) are well-known mimics of monarch butterflies. Red-spotted purple or white admirals (Limenitis arthemis) are mimics of pipevine swallowtails. Monarch butterflies and pipevine swallowtails are unpalatable for predators. Admiral butterflies are eaten by predatory birds like blue jays (Platt, et al., 1971)

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • mimic
  • Known Predators

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Adult admiral butterflies are pollinators that feed on nectar. Caterpillars feed on the host plants on which they are laid. Some species of this genus are mimics of other types butterflies. (Bartlett, 2012; Porter, 1989)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Do they cause problems?

No information about negative economic impact for humans was found.

How do they interact with us?

Adult admiral butterflies are pollinators.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • pollinates crops

Are they endangered?

Some species of this genus, such as viceroys, are of conservation concern due to loss of habitat. (Bartlett, 2012)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Austin, G., D. Murphy. 1987. ZOOGEOGRAPHY OF GREAT BASIN BUTTERFLIES: PATTERNS OF DISTRIBUTION AND DIFFERENTIATION. The Great Basin Naturalist, 47(2): 186-201. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

Bartlett, T. 2012. "Genus Limenitis - Admirals & Viceroy" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

Platt, A., R. Coppinger, L. Brower. 1971. Demonstration of the Selective Advantage of Mimetic Limenitis Butterflies Presented to Caged Avian Predators. Society for the Study of Evolution, 25(4): 692-701. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

Porter, A. 1989. Genetic Evidence for Reproductive Isolation between Hybridizing Limenitis Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Southwestern New Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist, 122(2): 275-280. Accessed July 31, 2020 at

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Hauze, D. 2020. "Limenitis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 05, 2023 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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