(Danaus plexippus)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed



N5B - Secure Breeding, N2N3N - Imperiled to Vulnerable Nonbreeding

S5B - Secure Breeding


not listed


Common and widespread


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


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


3 to 4¼ wingspan

Photo by Bill Reynolds


This 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 postmedian 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.


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, postmedian line on the hindwing.

Larval Food

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

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.


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


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.

Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 7, 20, 21, 24, 29, 71.


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.


First sighting of season



5/29/2016, Kasota Prairie

5/31/2015, Cedar Mountain SNA

5/24/2014, Lost Valley Prairie SNA

6/10/2013, Des Moines River SNA

5/9/2012, Avon Hills Forest SNA

6/1/2011, Cannon Wilderness Area

6/9/2010, Lebanon Hills Regional Park


The University of Minnesota Monarch Lab



Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)











No Rank:



No Rank:




Papilionoidea (butterflies [excluding skippers])



Nymphalidae (brush-foots)



Danainae (monarchs)



Danaini (milkweed butterflies)










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)





monarch butterfly










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.



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.



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


Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this insect.

Alfredo Colon

  monarch   monarch
  monarch   monarch

Dan W. Andree

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


Margot Avey



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.


Wayne Rasmussen

Monarch on swamp milkweed

  monarch   monarch

Joy Park summer wildflowers and insects are available for viewing


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.


This is a Monarch caterpillar on Common Milkweed.


Tom Baker

  monarch   monarch
  monarch   monarch




  monarch   monarch
  monarch   monarch
  monarch   monarch


  monarch   monarch





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

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.





Visitor Videos

Share your video of this insect.

  "Monarch Butterfly"
Dan W. Andree

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
Dan W. Andree

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

  Documentary 2014 The Incredible Story of the Monarch Butterfly Four Wings and a Prayer
Discovery Channel

Published on Feb 9, 2014

No description available.

  Monarch Butterflies Migration Google Earth Tour
Encyclopedia of Life

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:// in cooperation with the Encyclopedia of Life (http:// 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:

[taxonomy:binomial=Danaus plexippus]

  Complete Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly

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

Published on Dec 24, 2013

View more on Monarch butterflies.

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

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





Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this insect.

Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota


Dan W. Andree

Location: Sandpiper Prairie SNA in Norman Co. Mn.


Margot Avey

Location: Lake Harriet


Marilyn Carlson

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)


Monarch Butterfly


Robert Briggs

Location: Spring Lake Park Reserve

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


Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Joy Park


Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Joy Park



Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Joy Park

Joy Park summer wildflowers and insects are available for viewing


Wayne Rasmussen

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.


Bill Reynolds

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.


Crystal Boyd
6/10 and 6/11/2013

Location: Uncas Dunes SNA

Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co.

This is a Monarch caterpillar on Common Milkweed.




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

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blaine Preserve SNA

Blaine Wetland Sanctuary

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Blazing Star Prairie

Blue Devil Valley SNA

Blue Mounds State Park

Bonanza Prairie SNA

Boot Lake SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Camden State Park

Cannon River Wilderness Area

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

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
Shrike Unit

Flandrau State Park

Fort Ridgely State Park

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

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Kasota Prairie SNA

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
Rapids Lake Unit
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
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 Unit

Pilot Knob

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Plover Prairie
East Unit

Prairie Coteau SNA

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

Roscoe Prairie SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Schaefer Prairie

Sedan Brook Prairie SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Sheepberry Fen

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Prairie Preserve

Staffanson Prairie

Strandness Prairie

Swedes Forest SNA

Thorson Prairie WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Twin Lakes SNA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Two Rivers Aspen Prairie Parkland SNA

Tympanuchus Prairie

Uncas Dunes SNA

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Wahpeton Prairie WMA

Western Prairie SNA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Wild Indigo Prairie SNA

William O’Brien State Park

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zimmerman Prairie




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