Sighting for September 4, 2019

Vince Elia

Winslow WMA, Winslow, Camden County
Camden County, NJ

This White Admiral-type was photographed by Sue Bennett Canale today at Oak Pond in Winslow WMA. I don't have a lot of experience with this subspecies, but this one looks like it might be a cross. Interested what others think. Was cavorting with 3 Red-spotted Purples…

[Exciting find and photo! This is only our second sightings log report ever of this northern form of the red-spotted purple/white admiral complex. And it is our first photographed. Tom Bailey found our only other last year on June 30 in Palmyra Cove. (We also had a third photographed on 8-2-2012 added to our data retrospectively.) It is hard to find even in North Jersey where, like here, red-spotted is common.

[Vince points out correctly that there is a good chance this individual is not a "pure" white admiral. The two forms overlap over a large area in the northeastern US (from northern NJ to Canada) and mate w/each other so regularly that patterns show a wide mix of colors on many individuals. The RSP's more southern geographical range is thought to be limited (roughly) to the range of the pipevine swallowtail whose wing pattern it mimics – for protection from birds that have learned not to eat the poisonous swallowtail. (We also had a third photographed on 8-2-2012 added to our data retrospectively.)

["White admiral" types we see are in South Jersey are almost certainly not wanderers from the north.  Nor are they likely to be hybrids.  The most likely explanation seems to be that these are individuals showing "atavistic" (ancestral) traits.  Red-spotted purples apparently descended from white admirals as the ancestral population moved into areas occupied by pipevine swallowtails and developed Batesian mimicry.  (Red-spotted purples are protected from predators by their mimicry of the colors and patterns of pipevine swallowtails.)  The ancestral genes of white wing markings and other patterns can show themselves occasionally on red-spotted purples that have never been near "pure" white-admirals. jc]

  • White Admiral 1

White Admiral