Danaus plexippus

Common Names: Monarch butterfly, milkweed, common tiger, wanderer, black veined brown
Category: Insects
Sub-category: Butterflies

Monarchs are especially noted for their lengthy annual migration. In North America they make massive southward migrations starting in August until the first frost. A northward migration takes place in the spring. The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do on a regular basis. But no single individual makes the entire round trip. Female monarchs deposit eggs for the next generation during these migrations.

Commonly and easily mistaken for the similar viceroy butterfly, the monarch's wingspan ranges from 8.9 to 10.2 cm. The uppersides of the wings are tawny orange, the veins and margins are black, and there are two series of small white spots in the margins. Monarch forewings also have a few orange spots near their tips. Wing undersides are similar, but the tips of forewings and hindwings are yellow brown instead of tawny orange and the white spots are larger. The shape and color of the wings change at the beginning of the migration and appear redder and more elongated than later migrants. Wings size and shape differ between migratory and non-migratory monarchs. Monarchs from eastern North America have larger and more angular forewings than those in the western population. Adults exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males are slightly larger than females and have a black patch or spot of androconial scales on each hindwing (in some butterflies, these patches disperse pheromones, but are not known to do so in monarchs). The male's black wing veins are lighter and narrower than those of females.

While breeding, monarch habitats can be found in agricultural fields, pasture land, prairie remnants, urban and suburban residential areas, gardens, trees, and roadsides - anywhere where there is access to larval host plants.

Edible Notes: No available information on edibility.
Warnings: Not known to be dangerous.