monarch

(Danaus plexippus)

Conservation Status
monarch
Photo by Bill Reynolds
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5B - Secure Breeding, N2N3N - Imperiled to Vulnerable Nonbreeding

S5B - Secure Breeding

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Monarch is a large, widely recognized, migratory butterfly. It has a wingspan of 3 to 4¼. The male is slightly larger than the female.

The upperside of both wings is orange with heavy black veins. The veins of the male are thinner and well defined and, while those of the female are thicker blurred.

The subapical area of the forewing has four small, pale orange spots and a small white or pale orange spot. They are arranged as two short lines of spots. The outer margin has a broad, black border with two submarginal rows of white spots. The leading edge (costal) margin has a broad, black border with five white spots near the middle. The inner margin has a broad black border on with no spots. There is no V-shaped indentation on the leading edge of the forewing cell.

The upper side of the hindwing has a broad, black border on the outer margin with two rows of white spots. There is no curved, black postmedial line. On males there is a small, black, oval, scent patch on a vein near the center of the hindwing.

The underside of both wings is similarly marked but the hindwing and the tip of the forewing are pale orange.

Seen from above, the body is black with four white spots and a short, thin, white vertical stripe on the thorax; and a thin, interrupted, white band separating each abdominal segment. The head, seen from above, is black, with a band of four white spots near the “neck” and a single white spot between the antennae bases. The spots on the thorax, with three of the head spots, form an inverted V shape. The eyes and legs are black.

The caterpillar is up to 2 long, uniquely colored, and easily recognized. The thorax and abdomen are boldly banded in yellow, black, and white. The head is banded in yellow and black. There is a pair of long, black, fleshy, whip-like tentacles (filaments) extending from the upper (dorsal) surface of the second thoracic segment and a a similar but shorter pair extending from the eighth abdominal segment. The prolegs are black with a single, large, white spot.

Mature caterpillars are found from about June 20th to the end of August.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

3 to 4¼ wingspan

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) is smaller, with a wingspan of no more than 3¼. There is a single row of white spots in the black border on the outer margin and a single row of 2 to 4 white spots in the subapical area. There is a curved, black, postmedial line on the hindwing.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Fields, meadows, weedy areas, marshes, roadsides, and other open areas.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

Three or four overlapping generations:
Mid-May to late October

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

Adults have a powerful flight and often sail with their wings held in a V-formation.

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

The male patrols in search of receptive females. After mating, the female lays green eggs singly on the underside of host plant leaves. The larva molts four times before pupating. Mature caterpillars of the first brood are found beginning about June 20th. They pupate by July. Mature caterpillars of the second brood appear by August 15th. They pupate by the end of August.

 
     
 

Larva Hosts

 
 

Leaves and flowers of milkweed (Asclepias spp.). The caterpillar stores cardiac glycosides, present in all milkweeds, in its body. This makes the caterpillar and adult poisonous and unpalatable to potential predators.

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Flower nectar

 
     
 
Links
 
 

The University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

7, 20, 21, 24, 29, 71.

 
  11/2/2018      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common and widespread

 
         
 

Migration

 
 

In September, adults of the third or fourth generation of the eastern population of Monarchs begin congregating in large numbers on the foliage of trees and shrubs near water. By the end of October they have left the state in a mass migration to their winter grounds. They arrive at one of thirteen small overwintering sites in the Sierra Madre mountains between 43 and 105 miles west of Mexico City, Mexico. The following spring the same butterflies begin a northward migration. They lay eggs that will become the first generation in northern Mexico and southern United States between late March and late April. First generation monarchs begin to arrive in Minnesota around mid-May.

Northward migrating butterflies arrive in Minnesota around mid-May. They are of a more recent (first) generation, rarely if ever the same individuals (third or fourth generation) that migrated south.

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)  
 

Suborder

Glossata  
 

Infraorder

Neolepidoptera  
  Parvorder Heteroneura  
  No Rank Ditrysia  
  No Rank Obtectomera  
 

Superfamily

Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])  
 

Family

Nymphalidae (brush-foots)  
 

Subfamily

Danainae (monarchs)  
 

Tribe

Danaini (milkweed butterflies)  
  Subtribe Danaina  
 

Genus

Danaus  
  Subgenus Danaus  
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

monarch (Danaus plexippus leucogyne)

monarch (Danaus plexippus megalippe)

monarch (Danaus plexippus nigrippus)

monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus)

monarch (Danaus plexippus portoricensis)

monarch (Danaus plexippus tobagi)

 
       
 

There are several subspecies of Monarch in Central America that do not migrate. Danaus plexippus plexippus is the only subspecies found outside of Central America.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

monarch

monarch butterfly

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Filament

On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.

 

Proleg

A fleshy structure on the abdomen of some insect larvae that functions as a leg, but lacks the five segments of a true insect leg.

 

Pupa

The life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. In caterpillars, the chrysalis.

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

Share your photo of this insect.

 
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Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.
 
 

Bobbi Johnson

 
    monarch      
 

Mike Poeppe

 
    monarch      
 

Rick Thome

 
  found these flowers with dozen monarchs feeding on deep in pond grass   monarch  
           
        monarch  
 

Luciearl

 
 

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.

  monarch  
 

Alfredo Colon

 
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
 

Dan W. Andree

 
 

“Mating Monarch Butterflies”

I do not see that many Monarch butterflies in a lot of areas. I read they were declining. I was glad to come across some at Frenchman’s Bluff - Scientific and Natural Area in rural Norman Co. Mn.

  monarch  
           
  Monarch Butterfly - Sandpiper Prairie SNA in Norman Co. Mn.   monarch  
 

Lynn Rubey

 
  A female Monarch on a blade of grass between the Pool 7 and the West Pool in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, there are several Milkweed plants nearby that the Monarch needs for survival.   monarch  
           
        monarch  
           
  A female Monarch on a blade of grass between the Pool 7 and the West Pool in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, there are several Milkweed plants nearby that the Monarch needs for survival.   monarch  
 

Gerry Garcia

 
    monarch      
 

SaraBug

 
  Found 3 monarch eggs on the only milkweed plant in my yard! 2 of 3 hatched the next day, and the third one is about to hatch today (7/17/19).   monarch  
           
        monarch  
 

Norm & Peg Dibble

 
  Here’s some neat photos that Norm took of a Monarch chrysalis that was on the back garden fence, a surprising distance from our only Swamp Milkweed plant.   monarch  
           
  Then there was also another one very high up on our shed at the eaves. At least it found some shade there. We were able to photograph many stages of the Monarch as it came out of the chrysalis and worked slowly to open its wings.   monarch  
           
        monarch  
 

Margot Avey

 
    monarch      
 

Trisha

 
 

Monarch Butterfly

 
    monarch   monarch  
 

Robert Briggs

 
  Monarch butterfly at Spring Lake Park Reserve on October 29th. It seems awfully late in the season to be seeing these.   monarch  
 

Wayne Rasmussen

 
  Monarch on swamp milkweed   monarch  
    monarch   monarch  
           
  Joy Park summer wildflowers and insects are available for viewing   monarch  
           
  Monarchs can be found all over Minnesota. The first was found in rural Dodge County and the other in Maplewood on the Bruentrop Historical Site. Our home and Maplewood Hts Park was once part of the Bruentrop farm.   monarch  
        monarch  
 

Bill Reynolds

 
  There is a pretty good sized Bull Thistle patch near where I live that the bees and butterflies are working pretty hard.   monarch  
           
  This is a Monarch caterpillar on Common Milkweed.   monarch  
 

Tom Baker

 
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

Adult

 
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
           
    monarch   monarch  
           
 

Caterpillar

 
    monarch   monarch  
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Monarch Metamorphosis
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Monarch Metamorphosis  
Danaus plexippus (Monarch)
Allen Chartier
  Danaus plexippus (Monarch)  
Monarch Butterfly Emerges
Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren
  Monarch Butterfly Emerges  
 
About

Chrissy found a Monarch butterfly chrysalis in our backyard on 10/17/14. We took it into our home for a better chance at survival. A male Monarch butterfly emerged from this chrysalis and was released by us on 10/28/14. Every photo is in sequence chronologically. This was a gut-wrenchingly beautiful experience that we are so grateful to have witnessed - and participated in. We are so grateful to the BugGuide community on Facebook for holding our hands through this.

 
Monarch
jt893x
  Monarch  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

Share your video of this insect.

 
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Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.
 
 

Gerry Garcia

 
  monarch 01
Published on Aug 5, 2019
 
   
 
About

monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Lyndale Park, Minneapolis, MN

Video by Gerry Garcia

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/monarch.html

   
  monarch 02
Published on Aug 5, 2019
 
   
 
About

monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Lyndale Park, Minneapolis, MN

Video by Gerry Garcia

http://www.minnesotaseasons.com/Insects/monarch.html

   
 

Dan W. Andree

 
  "Monarch Butterfly"
Published on Nov 14, 2015
 
   
 
About

Published on Nov 14, 2015

This brief video shows the Monarch Butterfly feeding on the nectar of a plant known as Goldenrod. Background piano music added. Filmed in Norman County, Mn.

Raw, pieced together footage, no color correcting etc. done.

   
  "Monarch & Viceroy Butterflies" Filmed by Dan W Andree
Published on Mar 23, 2016
 
   
 
About

Published on Mar 23, 2016

Short video shows some of the similarities as well as differences between Monarch and Viceroy butterflies. Filmed late in the summer of 2015 in Norman Co. Mn.

   
       
       
 
Other Videos
 
  Monarch Butterflies Migration Google Earth Tour
Encyclopedia of Life
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 26, 2013

A story about the migration of the eastern population of monarch butterflies in North America, and the people that help them out along the way.

This Google Earth Tour was produced by Atlantic Public Media ( http:// www.atlantic.org) in cooperation with the Encyclopedia of Life (http:// www.eol.org) Learning + Education group located at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Producers: Eduardo Garcia-Milagros & Ari Daniel Shapiro

Download the Google Earth Tour KMZ file:
http://podcast.eol.org/sites/default/files/Monarch_Butterflies_Tour.kmz

[taxonomy:binomial=Danaus plexippus]
[taxonomy:class=Insecta]

 
  Complete Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly
dscottprod
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on May 23, 2008

The entire lifecycle of the Monarch butterfly from a tiny caterpillar hatching from an egg on a Milkweed leaf through metamorphosis to become a glorious adult butterfly. Filmed utilizing high powered microscopic cameras and time-lapse photography. Produced for the Chicago Nature Museum in Chicago, IL.

 
  Why fewer monarch butterflies are surviving their winter migration to Mexico
PBS NewsHour
 
   
 
About

Published on Dec 24, 2013

View more on Monarch butterflies. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/july-dec13/monarch_12-24.html

Monarch butterflies migrate to warmer regions each winter, but in recent years Mexico has seen far fewer monarch arrivals. Environmental changes have eliminated the butterflies' sources of food and shelter along the way. Independent video journalist Ross Velton reports on efforts to help monarchs survive their journey south.

 
  Monarch Butterflies
National Geographic
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Dec 31, 2008

The monarch butterfly's wintering grounds in Mexico are in peril. Are the monarchs in trouble too?

See All National Geographic Videos http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/?source=4001

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Mike Poeppe
7/11/2021

Location: Houston County, MN

monarch

 
  Rick Thome
9/6/2020

Location: Independence MN

monarch

 
  Luciearl
7/6/2020

Location: Lake Shore, MN

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.

monarch

 
  Alfredo Colon
10/6/2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

monarch

 
  Alfredo Colon
9/29/2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

monarch

 
  Mary Ann
8/28/2019

Location: Loring Park

August 26, 27 and 28—congregations of 5-7 Monarchs floating on a strong breeze and basking in sun on lower branches of Elm trees in Loring Park.

  Dan W. Andree
8/10/2019

Location: Frenchman’s Bluff Scientific and Natural Area in rural Norman Co. Mn

I do not see that many Monarch butterflies in a lot of areas. I read they were declining. I was glad to come across some at Frenchman’s Bluff - Scientific and Natural Area in rural Norman Co. Mn.

monarch

 
  Lynn Rubey
8/9/2019

Location: Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge

A Monarch Caterpillar on a Milkweed plant in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. Milkweed plants are essential for the Monarch's survival since the caterpillars eat only Milkweed.

monarch

 
  Lynn Rubey
8/4/2019

Location: Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge

A female Monarch on a blade of grass between the Pool 7 and the West Pool in The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge, there are several Milkweed plants nearby that the Monarch needs for survival.

monarch

 
  Gerry Garcia
8/4/2019

Location: Lyndale Park, Minneapolis, MN

monarch

 
  SaraBug
7/15/2019

Location: Minneapolis

Found 3 monarch eggs on the only milkweed plant in my yard! 2 of 3 hatched the next day, and the third one is about to hatch today (7/17/19).

monarch

 
  Norm & Peg Dibble
7/15/2019

Location: Maple Grove, MN

Then there was also another one very high up on our shed at the eaves. At least it found some shade there. We were able to photograph many stages of the Monarch as it came out of the chrysalis and worked slowly to open its wings.

monarch

 
  Alfredo Colon
6/10/2018

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

monarch

 
  Dan W. Andree
2017

Location: Sandpiper Prairie SNA in Norman Co. Mn.

monarch

 
  Margot Avey
8/31/2017

Location: Lake Harriet

monarch

 
  Marilyn Carlson
8/30/2017

Location: Annandale, MN

When can I safely pull out the milkweed plants that are growing in my flower garden?  I would really like to get milkweed growing along side our driveway ditch so it can grow basically wild with no problem of being cut or pulled out or sprayed.  As it is really starting to take over my flower garden.  If I take the milkweed pods/seeds and sprinkle them in this area what are the chances of the growing next spring?  We are seeing some Monarchs at this time (8-30-2017)

  Trisha
12/6/2016

Monarch Butterfly

monarch

 
  Robert Briggs
10/29/2016

Location: Spring Lake Park Reserve

It seems awfully late in the season to be seeing these.

monarch

 
  Wayne Rasmussen
7/29/2016

Location: Joy Park

monarch

 
  Wayne Rasmussen
7/26/2016

Location: Joy Park

 

monarch

 
  Wayne Rasmussen
7/20/2016

Location: Joy Park

Joy Park summer wildflowers and insects are available for viewing

monarch

 
  Wayne Rasmussen
8/10/2014

Location: Dodge County

Monarchs can be found all over Minnesota. The first was found in rural Dodge County and the other in Maplewood on the Bruentrop Historical Site. Our home and Maplewood Hts Park was once part of the Bruentrop farm.

monarch

 
  Bill Reynolds
9/5/2015

Location: Pennington Co.

There is a pretty good sized Bull Thistle patch near where I live that the bees and butterflies are working pretty hard.

monarch

 
  Crystal Boyd
6/10 and 6/11/2013

Location: Uncas Dunes SNA

  Bill Reynolds
6/21/2012

Location: Pennington Co.

This is a Monarch caterpillar on Common Milkweed.

monarch

 
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

Afton State Park

Agassiz Dunes SNA

Anna Gronseth Prairie

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Badoura Jack Pine Woodland SNA

Baker Park Reserve

Belgium Prairie

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blaine Preserve SNA

Blaine Wetland Sanctuary

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Blazing Star Prairie

Blazing Star Prairie Addition, South Unit

Blue Devil Valley SNA

Blue Mounds State Park

Bonanza Prairie SNA

Boot Lake SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Bur Oak WMA

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Camden State Park

Cannon River Wilderness Area

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Carver Park Reserve

Cedar Mountain SNA

Cedar Rock SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Clinton Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crow Wing State Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Des Moines River SNA

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Englund Ecotone SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Felton Prairie SNA, Shrike Unit

Flandrau State Park

Fort Ridgely State Park

Foxhome Prairie

French Regional Park

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Gneiss Outcrops SNA

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hayes Lake State Park

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Kasota Prairie SNA

Keller Regional Park

Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Kellogg Weaver Unit

Kilen Woods State Park

La Salle Lake SNA

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Langhei Prairie SNA

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Leif Mountain

Liable Woods

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Lundblad Prairie SNA

Malmberg Prairie SNA

Maplewood State Park

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

McKnight Prairie

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Wilkie Unit

Mound Prairie SNA

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Myre-Big Island State Park

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Pavia Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Rengstorf Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Osmundson Prairie SNA

Ottawa Bluffs

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Pankratz Memorial Prairie, North Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Pembina Trail Unit

Pilot Knob

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Racine Prairie SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Rice Lake State Park

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

Ripley Esker SNA

River Terrace Prairie SNA

River Warren Outcrops SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Rockville County Park

Roscoe Prairie SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Schaefer Prairie

Sedan Brook Prairie SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Sheepberry Fen

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Prairie Preserve

Springbrook Nature Center

Staffanson Prairie

Strandness Prairie

Swedes Forest SNA

Thorson Prairie WMA

Tiedemann WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Twin Lakes SNA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Twin Valley WMA

Two Rivers Aspen Prairie Parkland SNA

Tympanuchus Prairie

Uncas Dunes SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Wahpeton Prairie WMA

Western Prairie SNA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Wild Indigo SNA

William O’Brien State Park

Woodbury WMA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zimmerman Prairie

 

 

 

Binoculars


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