Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Monarch Butterfly - (Danaus plexippus)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/13/2014

The king of the North American Butterflies is the Monarch Butterfly. It reigns over the entire continent and has even moved to Hawaii.

Monarch Butterflies are a common sight throughout North America, with the exception of the extreme northern regions. Their orange and black coloring, mixed with a little white, make them instantly recognizable. Yellow and brown can also be found on the wings. The related Viceroy Butterfly appears very similar to the Monarch Butterfly, but has slight differences in both pattern and color. A discerning eye should be able to tell the two apart.

Monarchs tend to gravitate towards open meadows or along the road, traversing the terrain in the search for the much favored milkweed plant. They are active from May to early fall in most areas, but year-round in Florida, Hawaii and Texas.

Monarch Butterflies are migratory. This means they live in the northern region of the continent during the summer and then fly south to warmer regions to live during the winter months. A single Monarch can cover thousands of miles of flight in one season. Millions of this large butterfly fly together to the southern U.S. states and Mexico to avoid the bitter cold winters of Canada and the northern U.S.. What is most amazing is that life span of a Monarch Butterfly is so short that is could not live long enough to personally return to the region is started in. Somehow, the newly born and young Monarchs just know where to go for the other half of the year.

Like all butterflies, the Monarch begins as a caterpillar, feeding on foliage and flower buds where available. It is black with white and yellow rings from head to tail. Its favorite plant to eat, milkweed, is abundant across the continent.

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Category: Butterfly or Moth
Common name: Monarch Butterfly
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
Other Names: King Billy Butterfly

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Lepidoptera
      Family: Danaidae
       Genus: Danaus
        Species: plexippus

Adult Size (Length): 89mm to 105mm (3.50in to 4.13in)

Identifying Colors: orange; black; white

Additional Descriptors: flying

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.