Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Clever Disguise

Earlier this morning, I was showing my son the photos I shot Friday of a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta rubria) resting on a Virburnum leaf. He remarked that the butterfly didn't have any "eyes" on its wings, a common butterfly marking to confuse predators into attacking away from the butterfly's vital body parts. 


As we wondered why the Red Admiral was marked the way it is, my son noticed that the two orange bands on its hind wings looked like facing caterpillars, with orange, black-spotted body segments and and a pair of blue eyes. I couldn't find any information online about the evolution of the Red Admiral's markings, but it makes sense that it has developed these hind wing "caterpillars" as a decoy for predators much like the more common "eyes" on other butterfly species. It seems a lot less harmful to the Red Admiral if a bird takes a bite out of its hind wing than any other part of its body.

Any entomologists out there want to shed any light on the subject?


  1. Such beautiful creatures. I'm so happy to see larger numbers of butterflies and moths in our garden this year. All the native plants we've added in the last couple of years are really beginning to pay off in terms of the numbers of pollinators visiting our garden.

  2. I love seeing large numbers, too. They're as threatened as bees by all the environmental dangers we're creating.