American snouts have greatly elongated labial palps (mouthparts) that make them seem to have long “noses.” There is only one species of snout butterfly in North America. Forewings are elongated with squared-off wingtips. The dorsal wing pattern is orange with wide dark borders with white spots. Seen from below on perched specimens, the wings usually show only the mottled brown and violet-gray wing edges, though the forewings look roughly the same on both sides. When perched on a twig, with only the gray forewing edges showing, a snout butterfly is virtually invisible.
The caterpillars are green with yellow stripes along the back and sides, and numerous tiny yellow specks. Older caterpillars are dark green. The thorax portion is enlarged, with two black tubercles (raised bumps).
Habitat and Conservation
Woods, woodland edges, and suburban yards. Snouts sometimes form local colonies in the vicinity of hackberry trees, with the adults resting on the leaves and visiting nearby flowers.
This is a migratory species. The first individuals arrive in Missouri from the south in May, with numbers increasing as the season progresses. They are much more common near the end of summer. Population numbers vary greatly from year to year. Some years there are immense migrations, and they can be common in the Ozarks. Such fluctuations occur when an early drought lowers populations of the butterfly’s various predators, and then heavy summer rains cause the host plants to grow profusely.
Caterpillars feed on various hackberries (genus Celtis): hackberry, dwarf hackberry and sugarberry.
The adults visit a variety of flowers and drink from mud puddles and moist soils near creek beds and lake shores.
The caterpillars are herbivores that graze on vegetation. The adults serve a role in pollination. All stages provide food for predators.
Survival is of prime importance for every species. The American snout uses camouflage to avoid its predators. As caterpillars, snouts generally rest along the midribs of the leaves they feed on, which helps them hide from enemies. As adults, the butterflies perch on branches with wings folded, so only the drab gray colors are visible. They complete their "dead leaf" look by posing with their pointy mouthparts and antennae drooped downward, so those parts together look like a leaf stem.