The family Nymphalidae is the largest butterfly family and includes about 6,000 species
which are further divided up into 12 subfamilies. The common name for the family
is the Brushfoots or Brushfooted Butterflies. This strange name is because the first
pair of legs are significantly reduced, sometimes to mere stubs, and look like little
brushes. Some of the most common and well known species are in this group such as
the Monarch, Red Admiral, Blue Morpho and Painted Lady. Some of the longest lived
butterflies are in this family with some species living over 10 months as adults.
The Brushfoots are distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity found in the
tropics. With this variety, there is also quite a difference in behavior, adult
food choices and habitat preference from species to species.
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Limenitis arthemis astyanax belongs to the subfamily Limenitidinae. The Red-spotted
Purple is the same species as the White Admiral. The species range is from Alaska
and subarctic Canada southeast of the Rocky Mountains to central Texas then east
to New England and central Florida. Isolated populations are found in Arizona, New
Mexico and west Texas south into Mexico. The White Admiral form usually occurs north
of a line through north central New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and
Minnesota. The Red-spotted Purple form mimics the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail
and is usually found south of this line. There is a blend zone where these two forms
meet where the butterflies have both traits, in various degrees, of each subspecies.
Because of the extreme difference in the two forms, they are treated separately
on this website.
The larval food sources includes the leaves of many trees and shrubs including wild
cherry, Prunus sp., aspen, poplar and cottonwood, Populus sp., oaks, Quercus sp.,
hawthorn, Crataegus sp., deerberry, Vaccinium stamineum, birch, Betula sp., willow,
Salix sp., basswood, Tilia sp., and juneberry, Amelanchier sp. Males perch on trees
and tall bushes and rarely patrol for females. Eggs are laid singly on tips of host
plant leaves and caterpillars eat the leaves. Third instar caterpillars hibernate.