Red-spotted Purple – Limenitis arthemis

Red-spotted Purple butterflies are found in all states east of the Continental Divide, Arizona, New Mexico, and Montana. Sporting orange spots and a metallic blue color, many people wonder how it obtained the name “Red-spotted Purple”.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly Limenitis arthemis

Red-spotted Purple butterfly Limenitis arthemis

Red-spotted Purple butterflies host on several shrubs and trees, including wild cherry (Prunus), deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), willows (Salix), basswood (Tilia), oaks (Quercus), hawthorn (Crataegus), aspen, poplar, cottonwood (Populus), birch (Betula), and shadbush (Amelanchier). We have raised them on black cherry, willow, and deerberry.

Females land on a leaf, back down the leaf, and lay an egg on the tip of the leaf.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly two eggs on the tip of a leaf

Red-spotted Purple two eggs on the tip of a leaf

Young caterpillars hatch and extend the leaf vein by sewing bits of frass together to make a firm strand outward. They make a small ball of bits of leaves and sew them onto the leaf.

Red spotted purple leaf vein extended with frass sewn together with silk

Red spotted purple’s host plant’s leaf vein
extended with frass sewn together with silk

Young Red-Spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar on extended leaf vein

Red-Spotted Purple
Young caterpillar on extended leaf vein

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Caterpillars greatly resemble Viceroy butterfly caterpillars. Viceroy caterpillars have spikes on their humps and the set of spines on their thoraxes are slightly shorter than those of Viceroy caterpillars.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple butterfly caterpillar

Red-spotted Purple caterpillars attach and hand in a J before pupating.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly pre-pupa

Red-spotted Purple butterfly pre-pupa
Hanging in a J, preparing to pupate

After nearly a day, it pupates into a brown chrysalis.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly chrysalis pupa

Red-spotted Purple butterfly chrysalis

Adult butterflies emerge from one to two weeks after pupating, depending on the temperature.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Red-spotted Purple butterfly drinking nectar from sparkleberry blooms

Red-spotted Purple butterfly drinking nectar from sparkleberry blooms

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Red-spotted Purple butterflies drinking tree sap

Red-spotted Purple butterflies drinking tree sap

Red-spotted Purple butterflies drinking from a tomato that split

Red-spotted Purple butterflies
drinking from a tomato that split open

Red-spotted Purple butterflies drinking aphid honeydew (excrement)

Red-spotted Purple butterflies
drinking aphid honeydew (excrement)

Male butterflies drink from dung, carrion, and soil to obtain salts and nutrients. This male found the moisture on the outside of a fertilizer bag to fit his needs.

Red-spotted Purple butterflies drinking moisture from the outside of a fertilizer bag

Red-spotted Purple butterflies drinking moisture from the outside of a fertilizer bag

Red-spotted Purple sitting on a host plant, deerberry

Red-spotted Purple sitting on a host plant, deerberry

Red-spotted Purple butterflies overwinter as young caterpillars. They sew a leaf of their host plant to the stem. Using silk, they roll it into a tight tube. The caterpillar overwinters in the tube/hibernaculum, emerging in the spring when new leaves are growing.

Caterpillar sewing a leaf to the stem, the first step of making its winter hibernaculum.

Caterpillar sewing a leaf to the stem, the first step of making its winter hibernaculum.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly's hibernaculum

Red-spotted Purple butterfly’s hibernaculum

The rear end of a caterpillar inside its hibernaculum

The rear end of a caterpillar inside its hibernaculum

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