Skip to content

The Royal, Stately, and Elegant Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)

Introduction to the Queen Butterfly

The Queen butterfly is found in North America around Texas and the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Rarely, individuals will go north and in 2002 and 2003, some individuals were located in the Philadelphia and Reading areas of Pennsylvania (Monroe, James and David Wright. 2017. Butterflies of Pennsylvania, a field guide. University of Pittsburgh Press). It is part of the same genus as the Monarch butterfly, Danaus, and has seven recognized subspecies (Wikipedia).

Queen Butterfly on Twig.
Queen Butterfly on Vegetation — Korall, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Butterfly

The Queen Butterfly, found in the southern United States, is related to the Monarch Butterfly. It differs in being smaller and having three antennae, instead of the Monarch’s two.

Queen butterfly on purple flower.
Queen Butterfly on Flower — Renee from Las Vegas, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Color: Orange with thin black stripes on the top and more pronunced black stripes on the bottom. This butterfly also has white spots on the tops of the wings.

Wingspan: 2.5 to 4 inches

Active Flying Time: Adults are active all year in the south and a shorter time in the north, roughly April to November.

Queen caterpillar on milkweed.
Queen Caterpillar — Johnherrick, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Eggs and Caterpillars (larvae) of the Butterfly

Eggs: Eggs of the Queen Butterfly, like the Monarch, are laid on milkweeds. The milkweeds are then the host plants for the caterpillars.

Caterpillars: Queen caterpillars look similar to Monarchs having black, yellow, and white stripes, but they differ in that they have three pairs of feelers on their back. Monarchs only have two.

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of the host plant until becoming a chrysalis, which has a green color with gold spots on the top.

Active Flying Time: Adults are active all year in the south and a shorter time in the north, roughly April to November.

Are the Male and Female butterflies different?

Yes. The male of the Queen Butterfly has two features that appear as eyes near the bottom of the wings on the top and are the male parts. The females are solid orange, where the male structures described above are.

What butterflies are similar to the Queen?

1. Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus): The Monarch is a darker orange color and has more prominent stripes on top of the wing.
2. Soldier Butterfly (Danaus eresimus): about the same size as the Queen, but has darker veins.
3. Viceroy Butterfly (Limenitis archippus): has a darker orange coloration similar to the Monarch. It also has a black line on top of the wing.

What is the Habitat and Range of this Butterfly?

Queen Butterflies are found in open areas, such as marshes, prairies, fields, and gardens. It is mainly found in the southern United States, from Texas and other states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes it will range farther north. This butterfly does not migrate like the Monarch.

Host Plants

Pink flowers of swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) from Pennsylvania.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) — Cbaile19, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Plants: This butterfly needs milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) to forage on. Like the Monarch butterfly, it concentrates cardiac glycosides in its body in order to deter predators. It has a preference for swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), sandhill milkweed (Asclepias humistrata), clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicaulis), and rambling milkweed (Sarcostemma hirtellum). In more northern areas it prefers common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca).

Nectar Plants

Sweet joe-pye-weed (Eutrochium maculatum) in a garden.
Sweet Joe-Pye-Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) — Author Image

Nectar Plants: Like a lot of other butterflies, it likes plants from the milkweed genus (Asclepias spp.). Other plants include Joe-Pye-Weeds (Eutrochium spp.), frogfruit (Phyla spp.), and ragwort (Senecio spp.).

Share this post on social!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 × three =

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.