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Montana Field Guides

Viceroy - Limenitis archippus

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 3.1-4.4 cm. Uppersurface bright orange overall (resembles the Monarch, Danaus plexippus), white spots in black marginal bands on both wings and subapical black triangle on forewing, veins black, black postmedian line crossing dorsal and ventral hindwing perpendicular to black veins.

One flight in the far north, June to July; two flights in northern US, mostly June and August; four or more flights in the south, spring to fall (Scott 1986). April to October in the south, mainly June to August or September in the north (Glassberg 2001). Mid-May to early October in Colorado (Scott and Scott 1978), early April to late September in Oregon and Washington (Pyle 2002), mid-May to late September in Oregon (Warren 2005), May to August in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by combination of uppersurface bright orange overall, black wing margins with white spots, black postmedian line crossing dorsal and ventral hindwing perpendicular to black veins.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Northwest Territories south and east of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains to central Mexico except high mountains and arid lands away from water, east through southern Canada and the eastern US (Scott 1986; Oppler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002); to 2362 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978), to 915 m elevation in Oregon (Warren 2005). In Montana, reported across much of the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Uncommon to common east of the Rocky Mountains, locally rare west of the Rocky Mountains (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 18

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Non-migratory; individuals may disperse 2-3 km (Nelson 2003).

Watercourses, lake edges, riparian areas, willow thickets, valley bottoms, wet meadows, roadsides, deciduous woodlands (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002). Habitat in Montana not described but probably similar.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Larval food plants include Amelanchier, Betula, Chrysobalanus, Crataegus, Malus, Populus (several species), Prunus, Pyrus, and Salix (several species) (Scott 1986, 1992; Warren 2005). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Asclepias, Bidens, Cleome, Echinacea, Polygonum, Tamarix), aphid honeydew, sap, moisture from rotting wood and fungi, dung, puddles and mud (Downes 1973; Scott 1986, 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly, preferably on uppersides of host plant leaf tips (Scott 1986). Eggs hatch in about 6 days (depending on temperature), Larval development from L1 to L5 instar and pupa in about 24 days post egg-hatch, adults eclose (emerge from pupae) in about another 12-16 days (James and Nunnallee 2011). Larvae tend to feed at night, build nest from rolled host plant leaf only during hibernation, L3 instar (rarely L1 or L2) overwinters (Scott 1979, 1986; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males perch 1-2 m above ground on vegetation awaiting passing females, also patrol throughout the day along streams near host plants in search of females (Scott 1975b, 1986).

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Viceroy — Limenitis archippus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from