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Lorquin's admiral and California sister are a double delight

Robin Williams

Special to the Village News

Wings of Change is back to discuss the last two months' Butterfly of the Month Club. These two beauties look similar and often are mistaken for one another. The Lorquin's admiral has brown-black wings, each with a row of white spots across it. Its forewings have orange tips. Females are larger than males typically. The California sister is also dark brown to black and with the orange on the tips of wings. Unlike the Admiral, the California sister has blue bands along the edges and is named "sister" for its black and white markings on the forewing that resembles a nun's habit. Both species of butterfly are in the family nymphalidae.

The Lorquin's admiral can mostly be found across the Upper Sonoran to the Canadian Zone, east to western Montana, Idaho, S. British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The California sister can be found in extreme western North America, Baja California, Nevada, California, and Oregon. They are abundant in oak woodlands.

The usual host plants for the larvae of the Lorquin's admiral are the canyon live oak and the coast live oak, as well as other species of oaks; its favorite here in Fallbrook is the California lilac. The usual host plants for the larvae of the California sister are the canyon live oak, and the coast live oak, as well as other species of oaks. This diet makes the California sister unpalatable to predators, which might explain why so many other species have formed a mimicry complex around it.

Mimicry complex explained: multiple species that deter predators using similar anti-predatory signals.

The Lorquin's admiral usually flies around April to October, though it depends on the region. Butterflies in northern areas tend to have one brood a year (usually between June and August) whereas southern butterflies (mainly in California) tend to have multiple broods. The California sister has two or three broods with main flights overlapping from late March into October, adults sometimes lasting into the winter months.

The Lorquin's admiral larvae are usually yellow with a patch of white on the back. Eggs are laid near or on the tips of leaves. Common trees that the larvae feed on include poplar, cherry, cottonwood, and a variety of orchard trees, including cherry, apple, and plum. It is a total of about 34 days to adult eclosion. The California sister's larvae are green and laid singly on tips of oak plants. The pupa is pale brown to pale golden yellow with streaks and patches of dark brown and metallic gold. It is attached to tree trunks by a large silken web. The adults emerge after 10 days. The total development time from egg to adult is 65 days.

The Lorquin's admiral is named after Pierre Joseph Michel Lorquin, a French naturalist who came to California from France during the Gold Rush and made important discoveries on the natural history of the terrain. There is always this fun fact, brush footed butterflies, such as the California sister and Lorquin's admiral have their taste buds on the bottom of their feet.


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