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Kentucky State Butterfly
Adopted on July 13, 1990.
The Viceroy Butterfly, Basilarchia archippus, was chosen partly because of its striking resemblance to a large and better known species the Monarch Butterfly. The difference between the two is that the Monarch Butterfly is poisonous and the Viceroy Butterfly is not. The birds still will not eat the Viceroy Butterfly because it looks so much like the Monarch Butterfly.
The Viceroy caterpillars can trick its predators. It can do this because it looks like bird droppings. The Viceroy Butterfly eats willows, poplars, and aspen leaves.
Closely resembling the toxic monarch and queen butterflies, the viceroy was once thought to be nothing more than a clever palatable mimic. The viceroy, monarch and queen are all mahogany brown or orange with black wing veins and white spots, but the viceroy is the only one with a black band across the middle of the hind wings; the monarch has bold black veins on all four wings; and the queen lacks black veins on the front wings, and its white spots are much more obvious. Recent scientific research, however, has shown that the viceroy does in fact sequester toxic chemicals from its larval host plants that make it very bad-tasting to a variety of predators. A classic example of "Mullerian mimicry", all three noxious species (the viceroy, monarch and queen) gain protection by displaying a similar overall color pattern. Any predator attempting to eat any one member of the species trio is likely to get a bad stomach ache or at least a bad taste in its mouth. When a similar looking butterfly is subsequently encountered, the predator will probably avoid the meal, not wanting to make the same unpleasant culinary mistake again.
Many states have selected insects as one of their state symbols, however nine states (out of 50) have no official state insect as of 2008.