Monarch - Danaus plexippus - Monarca

Monarch – Danaus plexippus – Monarca

  • Family: Danaidae
  • Scientific name: Danaus plexippus
  • English common name: Monarch
  • Spanish common name: Monarca
  • Portuguese common name: Monarca

The Monarch – Danaus plexippus – Monarca are large and colourful butterflies known as the “Wanderers” in America where their amazing migration has been well documented. Some have successfully crossed from America into Europe but can only breed here in localized areas with a suitably mild climate.

Small breeding colonies can be found in Andalusia, along the Mediterranean coast where the climate does not freeze in winter.

Their larval food plants have been planted in gardens and parks and on occasions have naturalized aiding the spread of this species. (We have observed Asclepias leaving garden centres carrying many tiny caterpillars of this species, therefore assisting in their distribution)

Monarch - Danaus plexippus - Monarca
Monarch – Danaus plexippus – Monarca – underwing

The upperwings have a ground colour of burnt orange with an outline of black spotted with white. The underside has a paler yellow/orange ground colour, again with a black trim but with two lines of pure white dots. Throughout there are very noticeable black veins. The head is black with obviously pure white spots.

The caterpillars of this species can grow up to 5cm long, they are brightly coloured with bands of white, black and yellow. They have two pairs of black tentacles protruding from their backs, the longer pair at the front.

Monarch - Danaus plexippus - Monarca
Monarch – Danaus plexippus – Monarca. Left: Monarch caterpillar on Asclepias Right: Chrysalis recently formed
  • Altitude: Sea level to 400m
  • Wing size: Size: 75-100mm
  • Flight time: All year
  • Caterpillar food plant: Asclepias curassavica, Thevetia, Gomphocarpus fruticosus.
  • Distribution: Breeding in warm coastal areas between Cadiz and Malaga and also the Canary Islands.
Monarch - Danaus plexippus - Monarca

The only butterfly to live and breed in Africa, Europe and the Americas

Similar species: Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) which has similar colouring but lacks the black veining of the monarch.

Butterflies of Iberia
These are included in the list of butterflies in Andalusia.

Images taken in Andalucia, Southern Spain apart from top image By Kenneth Dwain Harrelson, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14917505


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