The family Nymphalidae is the largest butterfly family and includes about 6,000 species
which are further divided up into 12 subfamilies. The common name for the family
is the Brushfoots or Brushfooted Butterflies. This strange name is because the first
pair of legs are significantly reduced, sometimes to mere stubs, and look like little
brushes. Some of the most common and well known species are in this group such as
the Monarch, Red Admiral, Blue Morpho and Painted Lady. Some of the longest lived
butterflies are in this family with some species living over 10 months as adults.
The Brushfoots are distributed worldwide, with the highest diversity found in the
tropics. With this variety, there is also quite a difference in behavior, adult
food choices and habitat preference from species to species.
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Nymphalis antiopa belongs to the subfamily Nymphalinae. Its ranges is all of North
America south of the tundra to central Mexico. Its rarely seen in the Gulf States
and peninsular Florida. This wide ranging species is also native to temperate Eurasia
where is it called the Camberwell Beauty in some places. This is one of the longest
lived butterflies as an adult with life spans up to 11 months.
The larval food source includes several trees such as willows, including black willow,
Salix nigra, weeping willow, S. babylonica, and silky willow, S. Sericea. Also American
elm, Ulmus americana, cottonwood, Populus deltoides, aspen, P. tremuloides, paper
birch, Betula papyrifera, and hackberry, Celtis occidentalis. Overwintered adults
mate in the spring, the males perching in sunny openings during the afternoon to
wait for receptive females. Eggs are laid in groups circling twigs of the host plant.
Caterpillars live in a communal web and feed together on young leaves, then pupate
and emerge as adults in June or July. After feeding briefly, the adults estivate
until fall, when they re-emerge to feed and store energy for hibernation.
Nymphalis antiopa, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1 July 2001
Nymphalis antiopa, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1 July 1997