While hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains this weekend, I explored half a dozen waterfalls. These ranged from the 10 foot high Lower Falls of the Swift River along the Kancamagus Highway to larger falls, such as Winneweta Falls (40 feet) and Arethusa Falls (176 ft – the highest single drop waterfall in New Hampshire). At each location, in addition to the beauty of the falls themselves, I was surprised and delighted by the number of butterflies flitting about. The two most common butterflies in these locations were Tiger Swallowtails and White Admirals.
White Admirals (Limenitis arthemis) have black uppersides to their wings with a curved broad white band and a few white spots on the apex. The hindwings are also black with a white band, with a series of red spots and blue dashes between the white band and the lower wing margin. Their wingspan ranges from approximately 3 to 3 1/2 inches. L. arthemis actually comes in two distinct forms: the White Admiral form (pictured here), which is common in Canada and northern New England, and the Red-Spotted Purple form with much more blue on the upper sides of the wings and distinct red-orange bars on the underside of the wings, which is common from Nebraska to Maryland and farther south. In the geographic band across southern New England and the Great Lakes, the two freely hybridize.
Admirals (there are four North American species including L. arthemis) have a flap-and-glide flight and are generally associated with forests or adjacent clearings, and are often found along stream and river corridors, so it is unsurprising that they were common along the White Mountain rivers. Unlike many butterfly species, however, Admirals only occasionally take nectar from flowers. Instead, they eat sap flows, rotting fruit, carrion, and dung, and often settle on moist spots along the streams to drink (which is how I was able to capture these photos).