Species Nymphalis l-album - Compton Tortoiseshell - Hodges#4430
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Nymphalinae (Crescents, Checkerspots, Anglewings, etc.)
Genus Nymphalis (Tortoiseshells)
Species l-album (Compton Tortoiseshell - Hodges#4430)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Papilio vau-album Schiffermüller, 1775. Type localty: Vienna, Austria [nonen nudum - name invalid]
Nymphalis l-album Esper, 1781. Type locality: Hungary and Austria
Papilio v-album Fabricius, 1787. Type locality: "Mus. Dom. Romani"
Vanessa j-album Boisduval & Le Conte, 1835. Type locality: “environs de New-York, de Philadelphie et de New-Harmony-Indiana”
Aglais j-album watsoni G. Hall, 1924. Type locality: Sicamous, British Columbia
Nymphalis l-album j-album (Boisduval & Le Conte)
North American populations are called subspecies j-album; the nominate subpecies occurs in Eurasia. A few recent authors consider North American populations to represent a distinct species, but they have rarely been treated as such, and are very similar to Eurasian populations.
Explanation of Names
The name Nymphalis l-album
(Eugenius Johann Christoph Esper
) has not been generally accepted as the valid name for this butterfly yet. However, the name N. "vau-album
" (Ignaz Schiffermüller
) has been shown to be invalidly published (a "nomen nudum" with no original description, nor type specimen). The name l-album
replaces it as the oldest validly published species name. Both names were described from European specimens.
"Vau" is the Latin name for either the letter V or the Hebrew letter vav/waw. "Album" is Latin for "white". There is a white or silver marking on the underside of the hindwing that looks like an "L" or "J", but could be interpreted as a vav (an L rotated 180 degrees looks like a very thin vav) or a wide, flat V. Much depends on the angle from which viewed, and all of the names are based on this "Comma Mark" as it is often called.
The common name was coined in the mid-1800s by Philip Henry Gosse, an English naturalist who studied the life history of this species while living in the town of Compton, Quebec.
wingspan 52-70 mm in Canada (CBIF
); 64-78 mm in United States (nearctica.com
Adult: upperside orangish-brown with large black spots and dark brown wing bases; thin submarginal dark band with golden spots along inner edge; leading edge of each wing has single white spot; underside mottled or marbled gray and brown, with dark bases and borders; hindwing underside has small white V near center (sometimes partly missing), representing the comma mark of the Anglewings.
Larva: body speckled and spotted white on pale green, yellow and brown, or blackish, with several rows of branched, usually black spines; head also bears many short spines, with one pair larger and branched near the tip. This is the only Nymphalis species with the pair of branched head horns. Polygonia larvae are similar, though usually with different markings.
Pupae: similar to other Nymphalis and to Aglais species, with two points on head end and two rows of conical projections mostly arranged along the dorsum of abdomen + thorax; plus, one prominent point on the mid-dorsum and more along the sides of the thorax.
southeastern Alaska and across Canada south of the tundra, south in the west to Montana and Wyoming, south in the east to North Carolina and Missouri
known to wander; has been recorded as far south as California and Florida, and as far north as Baker Lake, north of treeline in Nunavut
deciduous and coniferous forests; often associated with "cottage country" in the north, overwintering in tree cavities, under eaves, or in garages, outhouses, and cottages
adults fly from July to November before hibernating, and appear again in May and June to lay eggs
larvae feed in groups on willow (Salix spp.), birch (Betula spp.), and poplar (Populus spp.)
adults feed on sap, rotting fruit, and nectar of willow flowers
eggs are laid in clumps on the hostplant; one generation per year; overwinters as an adult, sometimes in groups
) is smaller and lacks white mark on underside of hindwing
pinned adult image
plus adult description, biology, flight season, larval and adult food, habitat, US distribution map (nearctica.com)
live adult images
by G.O. Krizek, plus the same text and map as the nearctica.com site above (butterfliesandmoths.org)
pinned adult image
plus description of adult and larva, subspecies, distribution, similar species, larval foodplants, flight season, habitat, remarks (Butterflies of Canada, CBIF)