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Monarchs and Relatives (Danainae sub-family, Nymphalidae family), Their Mimickers (the Viceroys) and Their Relatives, the Red-spotted Purples (Sub-family Limenitidinae, Nymphalidae family)

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus)

They're perhaps the most popular and most studied butterflies of all, although not the most common.  Monarchs aren't the only migrating species: many species of butterflies and skippers go on long migrations, and Monarch caterpillars are plentiful in Ponce, Puerto Rico as well as in Mexico.   Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) are found on all major continents and also undertake long migrations, for example.  However, Monarchs stand out because of their conformist behavior:  in the mainland US, they are either found migrating in large groups or mostly missed out on altogether. What is not well known about Monarchs, though, is that a black-and-white form is found in Hawaii.  Individual adult Monarchs that migrate south in the fall may live several months because mating is delayed by migration.

Monarch, seen outside at Encounter the Wild, Museum of Life & Sciences, Durham, NC, 4/20/07.  Note how worn this Monarch looks: it may have overwintered. Monarch, male, Durham, NC, 6/8/04.  Notice the pheromone glands on the hind wings. Monarch, Durham, NC, 10/19/04.  Notice how the hind wing is pale orange, in contrast with most of the forewing. Monarch, NC Zoo, Asheboro, Randolph County, NC, 10/31/04. Monarch, NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC, 7/8/05.


Male Monarch, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 8/2405 Monarch, recently hatched from chrysalis.

© 2006 Mick Phillips

Monarch, Moses Cone Memorial Park, Watauga County, NC, 8/8/06 Another Monarch, same place and day.


This Monarch caterpillar appeared on the underside of a leaf of one of the many huge milkweed plants in Puerto Rico on 2/3/02.  In Ponce, milkweed plants were six feet high and had fist-sized pods. Another Monarch caterpillar, Durham, NC, 9/30/16 Monarch caterpillar, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 9/23/05.


Monarch chrysalis, Durham, NC, 9/21/18          

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

It's in the same genus as the Monarch, but migration is not its forte.  The Queen occasionally makes its appearance in the warmest parts of the mainland US, but isn't abundant anywhere outside Mexico.  But what a difference!  No black veins on this side, just a sprinkling of white spots.  The Queen, despite its similarities, doesn't share the Monarch's toughness and is rare here outside the extreme South.

Queen, Myakka River State Park, Sarasota County, FL, 3/31/12 Queen (Danaus gilippus).    I found this one on the nature trail at Fort Fisher State Recreational Area, New Hanover County, NC, 8/27/03. From this side, the same Queen looks a lot more like a Monarch.  But note that both wings are the same medium brown, and the white spots are more widely scattered.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Viceroys look a lot like Monarchs, but are actually members of a different genus, the Admirals (genus Limenitis) They are, however, both Brushfoots.

Durham, NC, 9/14/05. Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Chapel Hill, NC, 10/16/04.  The telltale black transverse stripes are there on the other side, too.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

Red-spotted Purples are actually members of one of two subspecies, the other being the White Admiral, which is found in the Northeast. 

Red-spotted Purple, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 9/10/05. Ventral view, Durham, 7/15/05.


© Copyright 2005-2018 Dorothy E. Pugh