Medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan up to 3-3/8 inches. The upperside is orange with black veins and borders; the underside is lighter orange. Viceroys in northern Florida are orange, resembling monarch buttterfiles (Danaus plexippus); those in southern Florida are mahogany, resembling queens (Danaus gilippus). They differ from those species in having a black line across the hindwing and a single row of white dots in the black marginal band. Viceroys are smaller, with less powerful wingbeats; they often fly with their wings flat, while the other two species fly with their wings in a "V" shape. The greenish-brown caterpillar has a white saddle, white markings, and long horns with spines that extend over the head; it resembles a bird dropping. There are small spines on the top of the thorax and the first abdominal segments. The shiny brown and white chrysalis also resembles a bird dropping; it hangs from a stick or grass blade.
Widespread in North America; West Indies, Mexico.
Distribution and Abundance in Florida:
Common in West Florida and North Florida March-November, common in Central Florida February-December, common all year in South Florida, rare stray in the Keys in May and August.
Open areas near water bodies, swamp and lake margins, and wet areas near willows.
Two to three broods per year; all year in South Florida. The green eggs are laid singly on the tips of host plant leaves, two to three per leaf.
Males perch in the morning and early afternoon around host plants, searching for females and defending their territory.
Caterpillars feed on their eggshells after hatching, then on the leaves and catkins (flower stalks) of the host plants. The only native larval host plant is coastal plain willow (Salix caroliniana); the nonnative weeping willow (Salix babylonica) also is used. Adults nectar on a variety of plants in the family Asteraceae and also feed on aphid honeydew, carrion, dung and decaying fungi.