Nature diary > Viceroys


I had two interesting encounters with viceroys this year. The first was in June. I found a viceroy that returned to the same spot to perch, day after day. The behavior was so predictable that I felt I had the insect's address: on a waist-high buckthorn, overlooking a path. I didn't find it here every time I looked, but I did find it ten times or so on the same bush over a three or four week period. It would perch, fly off in a large lazy circle, infrequently nectar at a flower, and then land more or less on the perch it had started from. A couple of times I saw the viceroy chase another viceroy, perhaps chasing a prospective mate.

In September, I found more viceroys in another location. This time instead of one, I found four viceroys that all behaved pretty much the same as the one I observed in June. They returned to more or less the same spot reliably after making a tour of the area. By now I knew enough to wait, watch, and the butterfly would return after a pretty short time. Then it would launch off again. With this second round of observations I watched more encounters between viceroys. After this second look at the behavior, I'm not sure whether the aerial chases I saw were a mating behavior, or one male chasing another male from his territory. I never saw any viceroys mating, and I saw them nectar very infrequently.

The viceroys used a number of different perches - shrubs such as blackthorn, Queen Anne's lace, or a rock in the path. The common element was that the viceroy returned to the spot, within a few feet, after a round of flying around. The predictability made them a great subject, and I was able to capture them in a variety of poses. The pictures shown on this page are all meant to show a viceroy posed for a leap off on another trip around the meadow. All of them are of  the same individual, the first of the group of four I saw along the path in September.


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