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Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Monarch Butterfly.


 Updated: 10/9/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org



  Monarch Butterfly  
Picture of Monarch-Butterfly


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.
Basic Information
Common Name: Monarch Butterfly
Other Name(s): King Billy Butterfly
Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
Category: Butterfly or Moth


General Identification
Size (Adult; Length): 89mm to 105mm (3.47in to 4.10in)
Colorwheel Graphic
Identifying Colors: orange; black; white
Additional Descriptors: flying




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


Butterfly and Moth Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American butterfly and moth insect
1
Antennae: Butterflies and Moths have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and proboscis.
3
Thorax: Home to the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Abdomen: Contains vital internal organs such as the heart(s) and reproduction facilities.
5
Forewing: The upper, forward wing pair used for flying.
6
Hindwing: The lower, rearward wing pair used for flying.
NOTE: Butterflies and Moths are part of the Lepidopteran order as they share many similarities.


Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed below as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections below indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
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
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico


Territorial Area Map (Visual Reference Guide)
The map below showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Monarch Butterfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data can be useful in seeing concentrations of a particular species over the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some species are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America.
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
State of Iowa graphic
State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


Images Gallery for the Monarch Butterfly
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