Sunday, August 05, 2012

Viceroy (Vicereine)

Our visitor is a rather tattered but sprightly Viceroy, no less bright or elegant for all that, and a welcome visitor. A Müllerian mimic, the Viceroy looks much like the larger Monarch (Danaus plexippus), but it displays a postmedian black line running across the hindwing. The unsightly (in conventional terms anyway) caterpillars look rather like small heaps of bird droppings. Feeding on trees in the willow family such as willows, poplars and cottonwoods, they store the salicylic acid in their body tissues, and this makes them a bitter morsel to swallow - like the Monarch, they upset a predator's digestive system.

The word viceroy is a combination of the Latin prefix vice, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. To be a viceroy or vicereine, is to be merely the representative of a reigning monarch - there is a fair of amount of pomp and circumstance associated with such status, but the plushy robes and spotlight are borrowed and not one's own. My lady may have resembled the larger (and ever longed for) Monarch butterfly, but she is royalty in her own right, and she is standing in her own glorious summer light.

3 comments:

Lynn said...

That she is, Cate . . .

liliannattel said...

Exquisite. I love Viceroys.

Rue said...

Just beautiful!