Queen Monarch Clarity
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Most gardeners are familiar with the famous Monarch butterfly, but many are not so aware of the Queen. The Queen's range is not as extensive but they can be found from California to the Carolinas and almost every state in-between. They fly the southern half of the continental U.S.
Both kinds fly year-round in south Florida.
If you have Milkweed plants, there is a chance you may have Queens because they host on it just like Monarchs.
These related butterflies are two separate species. Sometimes unschooled folks call them "Monarch Queens." That's not a thing. Don't say that.
Queens can be male or female. A female Monarch is not a Queen!
Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Queens (Danaus gilippus) look alike as adults. Monarchs are a brighter, lighter orange and slightly larger. Queens are more brown. Both have black and white polka-dots on their wing margins and bodies.
The dorsal side of a Monarch has black veins.
Queens don't have black veins on their upper sides.
Mothers of both types lay their eggs on Milkweeds. The eggs are very difficult to tell apart. However, once the little caterpillars come out, one can distinguish the difference.
Queen caterpillars have three sets of filaments (head, middle and tail) but Monarchs only have two. Queens can have red markings.
Below, the Queen larva is on the left and the Monarch on the right. Both are eating Milkweed.
The patterns on the caterpillars are slightly different. In the photo below, the Monarch is on top.
Both species can make a green chrysalis. They are almost identical. That of the queen is slightly smaller, but if they are not side by side it can be hard to differentiate. Also, if you have really spectacular eyes, you can notice an extra gold spot on each side of the (head part of the) chrysalis in Monarchs that is not present in Queens. Below, the Monarch chrysalis is on the right. I placed an angled black line above the extra gold spot.
The most lovely part of the Queen's life history, in my sparkly opinion, is that some Queens make a pink chrysalis.
Monarchs can't do that.
Below, there are two Queens on the left and a Monarch on the right. Once again, the extra gold spot is visible on the Monarch pupa.
Hopefully, now that you have the lowdown, you can tell which kind the one below is.
Yep, it's a Queen. Now see if you can find them in your garden.
All hail her majesty,
Jessica Morgan McAtee
If you like Monarchs please check out my book on Raising Monarch Butterflies.