There’s more royalty in the butterfly world! The Queen (Danaus gilippus) is another of the 'Milkweed' butterflies. Sometimes mistaken for the Monarch, the Queen is a wee smaller in size with its noble orange-brown colouration edged in a black of two lines of white polka-dots.

The Queen is another brush-footed butterfly in the Nymphalidae family. The wings reach from 2 5/8" to 3 7/8" wide, which classifies the Queen as a medium- to large-sized butterfly.

Like the Monarch, adult males can be easily distinguished by the small black scale patch on the hindwing.  If you look carefully at this Queen, you can see what looks almost like a white heart on the hindwing…this, when seen from the other side would indicate that this is a male.

The Danaus gilippus is a Milkweed butterfly and use Asclepias and related plants for host plants. They are considered to be more of a 'warm-weather' or tropical butterflies but have been spotted in many locales. The adults enjoy nectaring from various flowers.

Like the Monarch, the Queen butterfly oviposits a single creamy, football-shaped ova (egg) on the undersides of the Milkweed leaf. Although usually eggs are laid on the undersides of the leaves, sometimes an egg may be laid on the top. The egg looks very similar to that of the Monarch…

After about four days, a little 1st instar caterpillar hatches, first eating its shell, then beginning its hunt for food. Can you spot the three pairs of fleshy tubercles (what some people think are antennae) on this newly-hatched baby?

Look really carefully…

It doesn't take long before the first molt (shedding of skin) and the beginning of the very recognizable 'look' of the Queen larva to appear. Can you see the three pairs of tubercles on this 2nd instar? How has the head changed? It’s definitely smaller now.

Here’s another view of the 2nd instar (yes, it is the same caterpillar!). Notice the patterns, the colours…

With each instar, the Queen larva becomes a more elegant looking caterpillar. The colours and patterns are so striking. Just watching one as it climbs amongst the the Milkweed leaves is a true treat for the eyes…

A caterpillar’s main ‘duty’ is to eat and gather as much nutritional energy as possible. The time as a larva is critical; this is what will determine the health of the adult butterfly. A larva with a poor diet will result in a smaller adult butterfly. Larvae with abundantly healthy foliage will result in healthy butterflies.

This 4th instar is a very healthy caterpillar, indeed.

The Queen pupa looks remarkably like that of the Monarch although it is a little smaller in size. Sometimes, the pupae can be a pinkish colour. It won’t make a difference; the butterfly will be the same. It will take about two weeks before the butterfly ecloses.

Like the Monarch, you can easily differentiate between a male and a female by looking at the hindwings. Males have distinct black spots on the hindwings; one on each and females have none. The scent spots are scales.

Look at these two pictures. Which is the male? Which is the female?


IMPORTANT NOTE: Because the Danaus gilippus is closely related to the Monarch it is, unfortunately, prone to many of the same 'issues' such as OE spore and Tachinid Fly parasitization. Please visit the My Monarch Guide site to read up on these particular issues.

Answer to the question above:

The male is on the left and the female is on the right.


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DJInkers clip art is used with permission.