Monarch

Danaus plexippus (DAN-ee-us PLEK-see-puss)

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0759) [REARED]
Photo © Pete Eeles
 

Wingspan
95 - 100mm

Checklist Number
59.001

Family:NymphalidaeRafinesque, 1815
Subfamily:DanainaeBoisduval, 1833
Tribe:DanainiBoisduval, 1833
Genus:DanausKluk, 1780
Subgenus:  
Species:plexippus(Linnaeus, 1758)

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Introduction

This species is the largest butterfly seen in the British Isles, and is also one of our rarest migrants. This butterfly is known for its ability to migrate across large distances. The migrations in north America are one of the greatest natural phenomena in the world - where the adult butterflies can migrate from as far north as Canada to the overwintering grounds in very specific sites in Mexico, the west coast of California and Florida. The first record of this species in the British Isles, by a schoolboy, was on 6th September 1876 in Neath in south Wales. Although initial records were thought to be the result of accidental transportation by ship, subsequent years, such as 1933 when 40 individuals were caught, meant that this theory was dismissed and that the most-likely cause was a genuine immigration.

The total number of records for the British Isles is less than 500. The most-recent major migration was in 1981 with 135 sightings. Many north American bird species were also recorded that year. However, there is still some question as to the true origin of this immigration since the species is also known from Madeira, southern Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands, which it reached in 1860 and survives using Asclepias curassavica as its foodplant.

The larva feeds on various Milkweeds (Asclepias species) which are not native to the British Isles, and this explains why the immature stages have not been found in the British Isles. However, in August 1981, a Monarch that had escaped from a nearby butterfly farm was seen to lay on Milkweeds in Kew Gardens. Some of the eggs were collected and reared indoors, where the first adult emerged just one month after the egg had been laid. This species is a rare migrant to the British Isles. Although there are records from many areas, sightings are concentrated in the south and west of both England and Ireland. There is a particular concentration in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles.

Danaus plexippus

This species was first defined in Linnaeus (1758) as shown here (type locality: North America).

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0759) [REARED]

Male
Photo © Pete Eeles

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0753) [REARED]

Male Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 30-Sep-06 (0783) [REARED]

Female
Photo © Pete Eeles

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0758) [REARED]

Female Underside
Photo © Pete Eeles

Photo Album ...


Conservation Status

No conservation action is relevant for this species.

Habitat

Description to be completed.

Distribution

1.2 Rare Migrant
 

This species is a rare migrant to the British Isles.

Life Cycle

Although sightings have been recorded from March to November in the British Isles, the peak is in September and October. These latter months correlate with the southward migration in north America and it is not unreasonable to believe that favourable winds have pushed some individuals across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, this spectacular insect is unable to survive our winter.

Imago

The male butterfly is distinguished from the female by having less prominent black markings to the veins and conspicuous sex brands on the upperside of the hindwings.

Description to be completed.

Danaus plexippus

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (10)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0759) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Sep-2006

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 30-Sep-06 (0784) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
30-Sep-2006

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (15)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (3)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0758) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Sep-2006

Monarch - Portland, Dorset  9-Sept-2012

Photo © Neil Hulme
Dorset
09-Sep-2012

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) - Naples Botanical Garden, Naples, Florida - 20th November, 2014

Photo © celery

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (11)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (9)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0753) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Sep-2006

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (16)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - Danaus plexippus - Naples Botanical Garden, Naples, Florida 20-Nov-2014

Photo © celery

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (13)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0756) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Sep-2006

Monarch - imago - Dominican Republic - 18-Aug-05

Photo © Pete Eeles
Dominican Republic
20-Aug-2005

Monarch on the promenade walk in the main hotel area of Funchal, Madeira on February 22nd, 2015

Photo © Catteraxe
Madeira
22-Feb-2015

Monarch - imago - Thatcham - 04-Oct-04 (4) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
04-Oct-2004

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (8)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

Monarch - imago - Santa Cruz, California, USA - 07-Feb-09 (1)

Photo © Pete Eeles
07-Feb-2009

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Ovum

Eggs are laid singly on the foodplant and this stage lasts only 3 or 4 days.

Monarch - ovum - Dominican Republic - 18-Aug-05

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Aug-2005

Monarch - ovum - Unknown location - Unknown date [REARED] [Brian Clegg]

Photo © Brian Clegg

Monarch - ovum2 [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich
26-Dec-2008

Monarch - ovum [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich

Photo Album ...


Larva

The larva eats its eggshell on hatching before feeding on the leaves of the foodplant. The larvae are conspicuously marked, providing a warning to predators that the larva is poisonous, having built up toxins that it obtains from the foodplant. These poisons are passed on to the adult butterfly. Depending on temperature, this stage can be completed in as little as 16 days.

The primary larval foodplant is Milkweeds (various) (Asclepias spp.).

Monarch - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date (2) [Brian Clegg]

Photo © Brian Clegg

Monarch - larva - Unknown location - Unknown date [Brian Clegg]

Photo © Brian Clegg

Monarch - larva3 [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich
28-Dec-2008

Monarch - larva4 [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich

Monarch - larva5 [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich
05-Jan-2009

Monarch - larva [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich
28-Dec-2008

Monarch - larva2 [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich

Monarch - larva - Stratford-upon-Avon - 13-Jun-10 (1) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2010

Monarch - larva - Stratford-upon-Avon - 13-Jun-10 (2) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2010

Monarch - larva - Stratford-upon-Avon - 13-Jun-10 (3) {REARED}

Photo © Pete Eeles
13-Jun-2010

Monarch - larva - Thatcham - 20-Jul-14 [REARED]-3

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2014

Monarch - larva - Thatcham - 20-Jul-14 [REARED]-4

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2014

Monarch - larva - Thatcham - 20-Jul-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
20-Jul-2014

Photo Album ...


Pupa

The pupa hangs head-down from a stem or leaf, attached by its cremaster. This stage lasts around 2 weeks.

Monarch - pupa - Thatcham - 06-Oct-04 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
06-Oct-2004

Monarch - pupa - Thatcham - 25-Sep-06 (0748) [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
24-Sep-2006

Monarch - pupa [William Zittrich]

Photo © William Zittrich

Monarch - pupa - Thatcham - 23-Jul-14 [REARED]

Photo © Pete Eeles
23-Jul-2014

Monarch Hatching - 12-Oct-14 [REARED]

Photo © Trik

Photo Album ...


Aberrations

Description to be completed.

Click here to see the aberration descriptions and images for this species.

Similar Species

No similar species found.

Videos


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The following links provide additional information on this butterfly.

References

The species description provided here references the following publications:

ReferenceDetails
Boisduval (1833) Boisduval, J.A. (1833) Icones historiques des Lépidoptères d'Europe nouveaux.
Kluk (1780) Kluk, K. (1780) Zwierzat domowych i dzikich osobliwie kraiowych historyi naturalney poczatki i gospodarstwo.
Linnaeus (1758) Linnaeus, C. (1758) Systema Naturae. Edition 10.
Rafinesque (1815) Rafinesque, C.S. (1815) Analyse de la nature ou Tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés.