Queen butterflies are one of the most stunningly colored butterflies with a wide range of distribution. Due to their similar size and color, it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart from their cousins the monarch (Danaus plexippus) and soldier (Danaus eresimus) butterflies. They also have similarity in color with the viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus).
- Family: Nymphalidae
- Genus: Danaus
- Common names: Queen
- Scientific Name: Danaus gilippus
The queen butterfly caterpillar has visual similarity with the monarch and the black swallowtail caterpillars. They are patterned with alternating white and yellow stripes on a black base. There are also three pairs of needle-shaped protrusions from the head, on the back, and the last segment. The larvae have a small head and a large, spine- or hairless, cylindrical-shaped body. The stage lasts for 2 to 3 weeks.
The chrysalis can be green, light to dark brown, or even dull white. It often displays ornamented golden spots. It is small, but thick and rounded, tapered toward the abdomen, with a golden-edged black band on top of a blue band. The pupa also resembles that of a monarch butterfly and may look like a pendant. It remains suspended by a long cremaster made of silk. The stage lasts for 5 to 15 days (except for overwintering pupae)
Sexual Dimorphism: Not distinctly present
In an unfurled position, both the sexes display a chestnut brown base coloration with black borders. The primary wings have white spots scattered at the apex and patterned in two rows. Each of the secondary wings in the male has a brownish black scale patch (which the females lack), quite like the soldier butterfly; however, the former’s wing patch is more brown with less defined wing veins, compared to the soldier.
When folded, the ventral side of the forewings is almost the same as the dorsal side, while the hind wings display pronounced black veins.
Average Wingspan: 3.1-3.3 in (7.9-8.4 cm).
Yellow to creamy white in color with an ovate conical shape, broadly flattened towards the base and truncated slightly at the tip along with several longitudinal ribs and transverse cross-ridges. They are laid singly, and the stage lasts for 4 to 6 days.
|Distribution||Throughout the tropical, and sometimes temperate, regions of the Americas, Africa, and Asia; in the US, it can be found around the Gulf Coast, California, Arizona, Texas, and towards the south of New Mexico|
|Habitat||Meadows, open areas, marshes, and fields, deserts, and woodlands|
|Lifespan of adults||1-3 months|
|Host Plants||Plants of milkweed species|
|Adult diet||Nectar from milkweeds, shepherd’s needle, and fogfruit|
Did You Know?
- The queen butterfly is closely related to and shares its genus with the monarch and soldier butterfly.
- Initially, it was believed that the queen butterfly is also related to the plain tiger (Danaus chrysippus) species. However, zoologists have recently affirmed that it has no biological connection with the latter.
- They are rather unpleasant if eaten by birds as the milkweed that forms the majority of their diet, makes them extremely distasteful for birds.
- They have seven subspecies.