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Encyclopedia > Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Papilionoidea
Family: Nymphalidae
Subfamily: Danainae
Tribe: Danaini
Genus: Danaus
Species: Danaus plexippus
Binomial name
Danaus plexippus
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The butterfly species Danaus plexippus is commonly known as the Monarch butterfly. It is perhaps the most well-known of all North American butterflies. Since the 19th century, it is also found in New Zealand, and in Australia where it is known as the Wanderer Butterfly. In Europe it is resident in the Canary Islands and Madeira, and is found as a migrant in Mexico, Azores, Portugal and Spain. Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 8.5–12.5 cm (3.34 in–4.92in). (The Viceroy Butterfly has a similar size, color, and pattern, but can be distinguished by an extra black stripe across the hindwing.) Female monarchs have darker veins on their wings, and the males have a spot in the center of each hindwing from which pheromones are released. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 610 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1466 × 1440 pixels, file size: 236 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File historyClick on a date/time to view the file as it appeared at that time. ... For other uses, see Scientific classification (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Animal (disambiguation). ... Subphyla and Classes Subphylum Trilobitomorpha Trilobita - trilobites (extinct) Subphylum Chelicerata Arachnida - spiders,scorpions, etc. ... Orders Subclass Apterygota Archaeognatha (bristletails) Thysanura (silverfish) Subclass Pterygota Infraclass Paleoptera (Probably paraphyletic) Ephemeroptera (mayflies) Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) Infraclass Neoptera Superorder Exopterygota Grylloblattodea (ice-crawlers) Mantophasmatodea (gladiators) Plecoptera (stoneflies) Embioptera (webspinners) Zoraptera (angel insects) Dermaptera (earwigs) Orthoptera (grasshoppers, etc) Phasmatodea (stick insects) Blattodea (cockroaches) Isoptera (termites) Mantodea (mantids) Psocoptera... The order Lepidoptera is the second most speciose order in the class Insecta and includes the butterflies, moths and skippers. ... Families Papilionidae Pieridae Nymphalidae Lycaenidae Riodinidae Libytheidae The superfamily Papilionoidea contains all the butterflies except for the skippers, which are classified in superfamily Hesperioidea. ... Subfamilies Apaturinae Argynninae Biblidinae Calinaginae Charaxinae Cyrestinae Danainae Heliconiinae Libytheinae Limenitidinae Morphinae Nymphalinae Satyrinae Author: Swainson, 1827 Type species: Nymphalis polychloros (Large Tortoiseshell) Diversity: 633 genera, 5,698 species The Nymphalidae are a family of about 5,000 species of butterflies. ... For the mythological fifty daughters of Danaus, see Danaides. ... Genera Subtribus Danaina:   Amauris   Danaus   Ideopsis   Parantica   Tiradelphe   Tirumala Subtribus Euploeina:   Anetia   â€ Archaeolycorea   Euploea   Idea   Lycorea   Protoploea Danaini is a tribe of butterflies. ... Species Danaus affinis Danaus chrysippus Danaus genutia Danaus gilippus Danaus melanippus Danaus plexippus . ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Carl Linnaeus, Latinized as Carolus Linnaeus, also known after his ennoblement as  , (May 13, 1707[1] – January 10, 1778), was a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist[2] who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of nomenclature. ... Year 1758 (MDCCLVIII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar). ... North America North America is a continent[1] in the Earths northern hemisphere and (chiefly) western hemisphere. ... Anthem: Arrorró Capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife Official language(s) Spanish Area  â€“ Total  â€“ % of Spain Ranked 13th  7,447 km²  1. ... For other uses, see Madeira (disambiguation). ... Motto (Portuguese for Rather die free than in peace subjugated) Anthem  (national)  (local) Capital Ponta Delgada1 Angra do Heroísmo2 Horta3 Largest city Ponta Delgada Official languages Portuguese Government Autonomous region  -  President Carlos César Establishment  -  Settled 1439   -  Autonomy 1976  Area  -  Total 2,333 km² (n/a) 911 sq mi... Binomial name Limenitis archippus Cramer, 1775 The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) is a North American butterfly with a range from the Northwest Territories along the eastern edges of the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada mountains, southwards into central Mexico. ... Fanning honeybee exposes Nasonov gland (white-at tip of abdomen) releasing pheromone to entice swarm into an empty hive A pheromone is a chemical that triggers an innate behavioural response in another member of the same species. ...

Monarchs at the Angangueo overwintering site in Mexico.

Monarchs are especially noted for their lengthy annual migration. They make massive southward migrations starting in August until the first frost. A northward migration takes place in the spring. Female Monarchs deposit eggs for the next generation during these migrations. By the end of October, the population of the Rocky Mountains migrates to the sanctuaries in the area of Angangueo, Ocampo, Zitácuaro and El Rosario in Michoacán, Mexico. The western population overwinters in various sites in central coastal California, United States, notably in Pacific Grove and Santa Cruz. The length of these journeys exceeds the normal lifespan of most Monarchs, which is less than two months for butterflies born in early summer. The last generation of the summer enters into a non-reproductive phase known as diapause and may live up to 7 months. During diapause, butterflies fly to one of many overwintering sites. The generation that overwinters generally does not reproduce until it leaves the overwintering site sometime in February and March. It is thought that the overwinter population may reach as far north as Texas and Oklahoma during the spring migration. It is the second, third and fourth generations that return to their northern locations in the United States and Canada in the spring. How the species manages to return to the same overwintering spots over a gap of several generations is still a subject of research; the flight patterns appear to be inherited, based on a combination of circadian rhythm and the position of the sun in the sky.[1] Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File linksMetadata No higher resolution available. ... For individual mountains named Rocky Mountain, see Rocky Mountain (disambiguation). ... Ajax prepares to violate the sanctuary of Athena by abducting Cassandra by force: red-figure vase, c. ... Ocampo is a 4th class municipality in the province of Camarines Sur, Philippines. ... Zitácuaro (formally: Heroica Zitácuaro) is a city in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. ... There are places that have the name El Rosario: // In the Canary Islands El Rosario, a municipality in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife In El Salvador El Rosario, Morazá, a town in the department of Morazán In Mexico El Rosario, Baja California Norte, a community in Baja... Location within Mexico Country Capital Municipalities 113 Government  - Governor Lázaro Cárdenas Batel (PRD)  - Federal Deputies PAN:12  - Federal Senators Jesús Mendez Arroyo García (PAN) Juan Humberto Vasquez ( (PRI) Marko A. Cortés (PAN) Area Ranked 16th  - State 59,928 km²  (23,138. ... Official language(s) English Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Largest metro area Greater Los Angeles Area  Ranked 3rd  - Total 158,302 sq mi (410,000 km²)  - Width 250 miles (400 km)  - Length 770 miles (1,240 km)  - % water 4. ... Pacific Grove, California city hall. ... For other uses, see Santa Cruz. ... A circadian rhythm is a roughly-24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of living beings, including plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. ...

Monarch butterflies are one of the few insects capable of making transatlantic crossings. They are becoming more common in Bermuda due to increased usage of milkweed as an ornamental plant in flower gardens. Monarch butterflies born in Bermuda remain year round due to the island's mild climate. Botany Asclepias, the milkweeds, is a genus of herbaceous perennial, dicotyledonous plants in the family Asclepiadaceae that contains over 140 known species. ...

A few Monarchs turn up in the far southwest of Great Britain in years when the wind conditions are right, and have been sighted as far east as Long Bennington. Monarchs can also be found in New Zealand during summer, but are absent the rest of the year. On the island of Hawaii no migrations have been noted. Official language(s) English, Hawaiian Capital Honolulu Largest city Honolulu Area  Ranked 43rd  - Total 10,931 sq mi (29,311 km²)  - Width n/a miles (n/a km)  - Length 1,522 miles (2,450 km)  - % water 41. ...

Monarchs can live a life of six to eight weeks in a garden having their host Asclepias plants and sufficient flowers for nectar. This is especially true if the flower garden happens to be surrounded by native forest that seems to be lacking in flowers. Species See text. ...



The mating period for the overwinter population occurs in the spring, just prior to migration from the overwintering sites. The courtship is fairly simple and less dependent on chemical pheromones in comparison with other species in its genus. Courtship is composed of two distinct stages, the aerial phase and the ground phase. During the aerial phase, the male pursues, nudges, and eventually takes down the female. Copulation occurs during the ground phase and involves the transfer of a spermatophore from the male to the female. Along with sperm, the spermatophore is thought to provide the female with energy resources that aid her in carrying out reproduction and remigration. The overwinter population returns only as far north as they need to go to find the early milkweed growth; in the case of the eastern butterflies that is commonly southern Texas. The life cycle of a Monarch includes a change of form called complete metamorphosis. The Monarch goes through four radically different stages: A Pieris rapae larva An older Pieris rapae larva A Pieris rapae pupa A Pieris rapae adult Metamorphosis is a process in biology by which an individual physically develops after birth or hatching, and involves significant change in form as well as growth and differentiation. ...

  1. The eggs are laid by the females during spring and summer breeding months.
  2. The eggs hatch, revealing worm-like larva, the caterpillars. The caterpillars consume their egg cases, then feed on milkweed, and sequester substances called cardenolides, a type of cardiac glycosides. During the caterpillar stage, Monarchs store energy in the form of fat and nutrients to carry them through the non-feeding pupa stage.
  3. In the pupa or chrysalis stage, the caterpillar spins a silk pad on a twig, leaf, etc. and hangs from this pad by its last pair of prolegs. It hangs upside down in the shape of a 'J', and then molts, leaving itself encased in an articulated green exoskeleton. At this point, hormonal changes occur, leading to the development of a butterfly. The chrysalis darkens (actually becomes transparent) a day before it emerges, and its orange and black wings can be seen.
  4. The mature butterfly emerges after about two pupal weeks and hangs from the split chrysalis for several hours until its wings are dry (often in the morning). Meanwhile fluids are pumped into the crinkled wings until they become full and stiff. Some of this orangy fluid drips from the wings. Finally (usually in the afternoon) the monarch spreads its wings, quivers them to be sure they are stiff, and then flies in a circle and away, to feed on a variety of flowers, including milkweed flowers, red clover, and goldenrod.


This butterfly is closely related to one or two very similar species which were formerly considered to form the Danaus (Danaus) subgenus (see Smith et al. 2005). One is the Jamaican Monarch (Danaus cleophile) of Jamaica and Hispaniola. For other uses, see Species (disambiguation). ... In biology, a subgenus is a taxonomic grade intermediate between genus and species. ... Binomial name (Godart, 1819) The Jamaican Monarch (Danaus cleophile) is a species of butterfly in the Danaidae family. ... Early map of Hispaniola The island of Hispaniola (from Spanish, La Española) is the second-largest island of the Antilles, lying between the islands of Cuba to the west, and Puerto Rico to the east. ...

The other is a butterfly which is almost indistinguishable from the Monarch as an adult (the pupae are somewhat more different) and occurs south of the Amazonas river. This taxon, Danaus erippus ("Southern Monarch"), is often considered a subspecies of the Monarch Butterfly proper. Analysis of morphological, mtDNA 12S rRNA and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I, and nuclear DNA 18S rRNA and EF1 subunit α sequence data (Smith et al. 2005) indicates that it is better considered a distinct species. Amazonas is the name of four subnational entities in various South American nations. ... A taxon (plural taxa), or taxonomic unit, is a grouping of organisms (named or unnamed). ... This article is about the zoological term. ... The term morphology in biology refers to the outward appearance (shape, structure, colour, pattern) of an organism or taxon and its component parts. ... Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is DNA which is not located in the nucleus of the cell but in the mitochondria. ... A non-coding RNA (ncRNA) is any RNA molecule that functions without being translated into a protein. ... Cytochrome c oxidase The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase (PDB 2OCC, EC 1. ... In structural biology, a protein subunit or subunit protein is a single protein molecule that assembles (or coassembles) with other protein molecules to form a multimeric or oligomeric protein. ... Nuclear DNA is DNA contained within a nucleus of eukaryotic organisms. ... Elongation factors are a set of proteins that facilitate the events of translational elongation, the steps in protein synthesis from the formation of the first peptide bond to the formation of the last one. ... part of a DNA sequence A DNA sequence (sometimes genetic sequence) is a succession of letters representing the primary structure of a real or hypothetical DNA molecule or strand, The possible letters are A, C, G, and T, representing the four nucleotide subunits of a DNA strand (adenine, cytosine, guanine...

However, as a species the Southern Monarch is only comparatively recently evolved. In all likelihood, its ancestors separated from the Monarch's population some 2 mya, at the end of the Pliocene, when sea levels were higher and the entire Amazonas lowland was a vast expanse of brackish swamp that offered hardly any butterfly habitat (Smith et al. 2005). This article is about evolution in biology. ... For other uses of mya, see mya (disambiguation). ... The Pliocene epoch (spelled Pleiocene in some older texts) is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5. ... For considerations of sea level change, in particular rise associated with possible global warming, see sea level rise. ... Amazonas is the name of four subnational entities in various South American nations. ... Brackish water is water that is saltier than fresh water, but not as salty as sea water. ...

Following the review of Smith et al. (2005), two subspecies are nowadays recognized:

  • Danaus plexippus plexippus
    The migratory subspecies known from most of the USA
  • Danaus plexippus megalippe
    The non-migratory subspecies which is found from Florida and Georgia southwards, throughout the Caribbean and Central America to the Amazon River. This has several local forms:
    • Danaus plexippus megalippe forma leucogyne
    • Danaus plexippus megalippe forma portoricensis
    • Danaus plexippus megalippe forma tobagi

As seen in the photo above, albino individuals are also occasionally found. Official language(s) English Capital Tallahassee Largest city Jacksonville Largest metro area Miami metropolitan area Area  Ranked 22nd  - Total 65,795[1] sq mi (170,304[1] km²)  - Width 361 miles (582 km)  - Length 447 miles (721 km)  - % water 17. ... West Indies redirects here. ... For other uses, see Central America (disambiguation). ... This article is about the river. ... Forma (literally Latin for form) is used in a series of terms and abbreviations to describe variation in animals, especially insects. ... Albinism is a genetic condition resulting in a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair. ...

Defense against predators

Monarchs are foul-tasting and poisonous due to the presence of cardenolide aglycones in their bodies, which the caterpillars ingest as they feed on milkweed. Both forms advertise their unpalatability with bright colors and areas of high contrast on the skin or wings. This phenomenon is known as aposematism. Cardenolides are a type of steroids. ... The bright colours of this Yellow-winged Darter dragonfly serve as a warning to predators of its noxious taste. ...

Monarchs share this defense with the even more unpleasant-tasting and similar-appearing Viceroy butterfly, in an example of Müllerian mimicry. (Viceroys were at one time believed to be Batesian mimics of Monarchs.) Binomial name Limenitis archippus Cramer, 1775 The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) is a North American butterfly with a range from the Northwest Territories along the eastern edges of the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada mountains, southwards into central Mexico. ... “Mimic” redirects here. ... A mimic is any species that has evolved to appear similar to another successful species in order to dupe predators into avoiding the mimic, or dupe prey into approaching the mimic. ... “Mimic” redirects here. ...

Relationship with humans

The Monarch is the state insect of Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, and Texas,[2] and the state butterfly of Minnesota, Vermont, and West Virginia.[3] It was nominated in 1989 as the national insect of the United States of America, and is the national insect of Canada.

Many people like to attract Monarchs by growing a butterfly garden. Others enjoy raising them for pleasure or for educational purposes. For migrating flocks, sanctuaries have been created at favorite wintering locations; Even tourism revenue is thus generated. Butterfly gardening is a growing school of gardening, specifically wildlife gardening, that is aimed at creating an environment that attracts butterflies, as well as certain moths, such as those in the hemaris genus. ... Tourist redirects here. ...

Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2816x2112, 1889 KB) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Botanical garden Monarch butterfly Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (2001x2000, 2360 KB) File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Monarch butterfly ...


Recent illegal deforestation of the Monarch's overwintering grounds have led to a drastic reduction in the butterfly's population. Efforts to classify it as a protected species and to restore its habitat are under way. Mexican authorities expected a significant increase in the Monarch population in the 2005-2006 season.

Monarch butterflies are susceptible to Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, a protozoan which parasitizes them. It is present on the abdomen of adult butterflies and passed to their offspring when the spores rub off during egg-laying and are then ingested by the caterpillars. The effects of the parasite on Monarchs include decreased weight, shortened lifespan, weakened wings, rapid weightloss, or inability to close, though this varies between butterfly populations and parasite strains. Binomial name Ophryocystis elektroscirrha McLaughlin & Myers, 1970 Ophryocystis elektroscirrha is an obligate, neogregarine protozoan that infects monarch (Danaus plexippus) and queen (Danaus gilippus) butterflies. ... Leishmania donovani, (a species of protozoan) in a bone marrow cell Protozoa (in Greek proto = first and zoa = animals) are one-celled eukaryotes (that is, unicellular microbes whose cells have membrane-bound nuclei) that commonly show characteristics usually associated with animals, mobility and heterotrophy. ...


  1. ^ Gugliotta, Guy (2003): Butterflies Guided By Body Clocks, Sun Scientists Shine Light on Monarchs' Pilgrimage. Washington Post, May 23, 2003, page A03. Retrieved 2006-JAN-07.
  2. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_insects List of U.S. State Insects
  3. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_U.S._state_butterflies&oldid=158687964 List of U.S. State Butterflies
  • Smith, David A. S.; Lushai, Gugs & Allen, John A. (2005): A classification of Danaus butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) based upon data from morphology and DNA. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 144(2): 191–212. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2005.00169.x (HTML abstract)

... Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society is a academic journal published by Blackwell Publishing Limited. ... A digital object identifier (or DOI) is a standard for persistently identifying a piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related data, the metadata, in a structured extensible way. ...

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

  Results from FactBites:
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) (565 words)
The monarch butterfly is an attractive insect that has reddish-orange wings, with a fl border and white spots along the edges.
The monarch is also called the "milkweed butterfly" because during the larval (or caterpillar) stage it eats the milkweed plant.
From egg stage to adult stage 8 or 9 months will have passed, although the monarchs that hatch in the spring or summer may live only 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the temperature and climate they are born into.
Monarch Butterfly - EnchantedLearning.com (1167 words)
The Monarch is a common poisonous butterfly that eats poisonous milkweed in its larval stage and lays its eggs on the milkweed plant.
Male monarchs have a dark spot (scent scales) on the hindwing and have small claspers at the end of the abdomen.
Some groups of Monarchs migrate for over 2,000 miles during August-October, flying from Canada and the USA to overwinter in coastal southern California to the transvolcanic mountains of central Mexico; this was determined by the Canadian scientist Dr. Fred A. Urquhart in 1975.
  More results at FactBites »



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