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
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.