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Danaus plexippus

Common Name: Monarch
Danaus plexippus
Danaus plexippus

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Nymphalidae
Genus: Danaus
Species: Danaus plexippus

Conservation Status

Identifying Features

Monarch butterflies have a 3-5" wingspan. They are bright orange in color with black veins across their wings. They have white spots on the wing edges and body. Males have a small black dot on the back of each hindwing.

Chrysalis of this species are bright green with a golden rim at the top. Caterpillars are a yellow, black, and white ringed pattern.

Habitat & Range

Monarch butterflies live in fields, marshes, and open areas. They are found throughout North and South America as well as oceanic islands in the Pacific.


Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants. After hatching the caterpillars will feed off of milkweed before turning into a chrysalis. Adults will feed off of a variety of flowers.

Life Cycle

The monarch butterflies we see around Cayuga Lake and across the US and Canada will migrate to warmer climates for the winter, either in Mexico or along the California cost. Monarchs will gather together in large groups to overwinter. This subspecies, Danaus plexippus plexippus, is listed under the IUNC as endangered.

In other areas such as Central and South America, Europe, Australia, and New Guinea, monarch butterflies do not migrate. This subspecies, Danaus plexippus megalippe, is not listed as endangered.

Monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar


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