Here is a butterfly that you are likely to see in your backyard. Although, from time to time, you might spot it visiting flowers, it much prefers to feed elsewhere. In fact, its feeding habits do not seem appropriate for such a beautiful butterfly. This is because it will dine on dead animals as well as animal droppings, rotten fruit and the sap produced by a variety of plants.
The red-spotted purple is often found perched on wet driveways or bare patches of soil in our gardens. When located in such settings it often slowly raises and drops its wings as it drinks mineral-laden moisture.
I most often spot this butterfly either perched or flying close to the ground. However, I have also seen it basking in the morning sunlight on tree leaves some 30 or more feet above the ground.
At first glance, the red-spotted purple is often mistaken for a dark swallowtail. However, when you take a closer look at this magnificent beauty, you will quickly realize it doesn’t have any swallow-like tails. In fact, its hindwings are squared off.
I have long considered this fairly large (3-3 1/2 inch wingspan) flying jewel to be one of our most beautiful butterflies. From above, the red-spotted purple displays a combination of black forewings, accented with reddish-orange spots located near its wingtips, and deep iridescent blue hindwings.
Interestingly, lepidopterists (those that study moths and butterflies) consider the red-spotted purple to be a mimic of the poisonous pipevine swallow. Supposedly, this helps deter birds and other predators from eating the nontoxic red-spotted purple.
The list of larval host plants for this butterfly includes cherry, deerberry, hawthorn, cottonwood and poplar.
Although the red-spotted purple can be seen from March through early November, it most often graces yards across the entire state during the summer.