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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Speyeria diana belongs to the subfamily Heliconiinae. This species is extremely
sexually dimorphic and the female is a mimic of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail.
At one point in history, the males and females were thought to be a different species.
This stunning species is found in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas as
well as the southern Appalachians from central Virginia and West Virginia through
the mountains to northern Georgia and Alabama. Its preferred habitat includes fields,
edges, and openings in moist, rich, forested mountains and valleys.
The larval food source includes many species of violets, Viola sp. Males patrol
for females in deep woods. Females walk along the ground laying single eggs on dead
twigs and leaves near violets. The caterpillars hatch and overwinter without feeding
and in the spring they feed on leaves and flowers of violets.