Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Species Danaus plexippus - Monarch - Hodges#4614

Monarch - larva - Danaus plexippus Monarch Caterpillar - Danaus plexippus Monarch - Danaus plexippus Early Instar Monarch - Danaus plexippus caterpillar - Danaus plexippus Monarch Chrysalis - Danaus plexippus Danaus plexippus (Linnaeus) - Danaus plexippus Deceased Monarch pathogen ID request - Danaus plexippus
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Family Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
Subfamily Danainae (Milkweed Butterflies & Glasswings)
Tribe Danaini (Milkweed Butterflies)
Genus Danaus
Species plexippus (Monarch - Hodges#4614)
Hodges Number
Other Common Names
Milkweed Butterfly
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Danaus plexippus (Linnaeus)
Orig. Comb: Papilio plexippus Linnaeus 1758
Wingspan 8.6-10.5 cm
ADULT: large, with conspicuous black veins on orange wings.
Monarchs often show a distinctive gliding flight with their wings held tilted upward in a dihedral (V shape).
Males have scent-scale patches on hindwings, prominent when wings are open, and just possible to see when wings are folded.

LARVA: entire length has alternating black, white, and yellow bands; front and hind ends have a pair of long black filaments projecting diagonally upward
Much of temperate North America into tropics and much of South America. Also some islands in Pacific, Australia (introduced). Highly migratory.
Open areas with flowers, hostplants
March through fall in North America; all year in tropics.
Adults take nectar from a variety of flowers.
The caterpillars feed on plants in the Milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae [or Apocynaceae in part]), primarily Milkweeds (Asclepias), but also other genera including Calotropis, Cynanchum, Gonolobus, Sarcostemma, etc.
Life Cycle

egg to 1st instar:

2nd instar:

3rd instar:

4th instar:

5th instar:

development of the pupa:

female vs male:

chrysalis to adult:

pupae that failed to develop properly:


- Zelus renardii - so. US to OR
- Stiretrus anchorago (F.) - Range: e US; - Picromerus bidens (L.) - ne NA
- Spined Soldier Bugs (Podisus spp.) - widely dist.


California roost:


See Also
Members of the public often mistake the unrelated Viceroy (below) for a Monarch, but the Viceroy is much smaller and has a black band across the hindwing.

comparison of Monarch(1) and Viceroy(2) hindwings:

The related Queen lacks black veins on the forewing and has darker/browner wings, and the Soldier has darker/browner wings.
Print References
Glassberg (1)
Brock and Kaufman (2)
Scott (3)
Rea et al. (4)
Koch, R.L., R.C. Venette, and W.D. Hutchison. 2005. Influence of alternate prey on predation of monarch butterfly (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) larvae by the multicolored Asian lady beetle (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) Environmental Entomology.‚ÄČ34(2): 410-416.
Works Cited
1.Butterflies Through Binoculars: The East
Jeffrey Glassberg. 1999. Oxford University Press.
2.Butterflies of North America (Kaufman Focus Guides)
Jim P. Brock, Kenn Kaufman. 2003. Houghton Mifflin Co.
3.The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide
James A. Scott. 1992. Stanford University Press.
4.Milkweed, Monarchs and More: A Field Guide to the Invertebrate Community in the Milkweed Patch
Ba Rea, Karen Oberhauser, Michael Quinn. 2003. Bas Relief Publishing Group.