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The Monarch and Queen Butterfly
January 22, 2013

Welcome to the Flying Butterfly!

With the holidays behind us the task is now to get past winter and cold weather. While we are hibernating so are the Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and Queen Butterflies (Danaus gilippus). It won't be long though, when they begin to wake and make their way north.

The Monarch and Queen Butterfly are named for Royalty.
Chrysalis is Greek and means "gold". Both of these butterflies have
a jade green transperent chrysalis with gold shimmers.
At the top of the chrysalis (also called butterfly pupa)
are dots lining around, nearly circling it.

With appearing to look like the crown of their King,
American Colonists named these butterflies the Monarch and the Queen.

Both butterflies are Nymphalidae, or Brushfooted Butterflies.

Technically the two are within a sub-species of the Nymphalidae Family - The Danaidae Family, where worldwide there are about 300 species.

Both are also found in most of Canada and the United States, especially the Monarch butterfly. The Queen is found partially in Canada and in
the U.S. can be seen from Illinois out to the western coastline of California. Queen butterflies aren't found in the pacific northwest or
north-eastern part of the states.

Medium to large size, the average wingspan of each is 3-1/4". They are considered tropical butterflies and both Monarch and Queen are very strong flyers.

      The Monarch Butterfly and The Queen Butterfly

  • Monarch butterflies are perhaps the best known of butterfly species, especially their butterfly migration from North to South America every winter. The Monarch butterfly wings are built for gliding
    helping them during their monarch migration.

  • While many Lepidoptera wings are designed to deceive predators, the Monarch and Queen butterfly wing colors warn predators. Their butterfly host plant is Milkweed, which is poisonous. Regardless of the butterfly life cycle - egg, caterpillar, chrysalis or adult, if eaten it's highly likely the predator will get sick (possibly die) or at least learn how distasteful the Monarch and Queen butterflies are.

  • With butterfly colors to warn predators of being poisonous there are other color combinations that warn predators of distaste or poison. The butterfly colors combinations that signal 'warning' to predators are:

    • Brown and orange
    • Black and yellow
    • Black and white
    • Black and blue
    • White/Black/Yellow (Also the colors of the Monarch caterpillar)

  • Puddling and basking are necessary for butterflies, with some exception. Basking is to keep warm, puddling is to take in salts
    and minerals - important for male butterflies when it comes to reproduction.

    When it comes to basking scientists question if salt also activates certain butterflies temperature regulating systems, helping warm them. It also has been discovered that some butterfly species vibrate their wings slightly for about a minute looking as if they are shivering. Monarch butterflies are one of these few species that vibrate. As far as puddling, however, the male Monarch butterflies don't puddle.

  • When it comes to butterfly mating, all butterfly species use one of two mating behaviors to attract a female. These are Perching and Patrolling. There are those rare species that do both. Male Monarch's and Queen's patrol all day.

  • How to tell the difference between the male and female Monarch butterflies: The male Monarch has raised black dots on their hind wings. These are scent pouches that release pheromones to attract the female. The female has black veins that are much bolder making them look a darker orange when flying. The male will appear a brighter orange because of the thin veins. The picture above is a female.

  • The Queen butterfly is darker orange-brown in color from the Monarch. Their forewings are longer and more triangular than the Monarch's and they have larger white splotches throughout wings. The male Queen butterfly is smaller than the female and also has scent pouches on their hindwings. The above picture is a male and the scent pouch is lower right black/white spot on the wing.

Both butterfly species feed on many flower pollens but rely only on milkweed as butterfly host plants. Nectar sources that both Monarch and Queen butterfly prefer are Milkweed, Butterfly bushes, Asters, Thistles, Mistflower, Goldenrods, Joe-Pye weed, Blanket flower, Gayfeather, Comsos, Lantana, Scarlet sage, Lilac, Mallow, Mint, Sedum, Dogbane, Firebush, Pentas, Golden Dewdrop and Zinnia.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), which is orange and blooms June through September, along with the 100 or more types of Milkweed are the only butterfly host plants for both species. These plants are herbaceous perennials.

The 3 most common Milkweeds that are likely to be found are:

  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) with pink to white flowers.
  • Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) with bright pink flowers.
  • Scarlet Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) a tropical perennial with bright red and yellow flowers. Apply caution with this milkweed. It self seeds so be careful if planting in warmer climates where it won't die back in winter. This could potentially become invasive.

The Viceroy Butterfly is not part of the Monarch family.
Looking like the Monarch is no mistake for the Viceroy. With the same brown and orange colors learn more at this page.

Think warm, sunny colorful gardening thoughts.
Spring is coming!

Elizabeth @ Easy Butterfly Garden

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