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Butterflies of Kentucky -- Danaus gilippus

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Butterflies of North America

Butterflies of Kentucky

Queen (Danaus gilippus)
JPG -- species photo

Queen (Danaus gilippus [Cramer])

Wing span: 2 5/8 - 3 7/8 inches (6.7 - 9.8 cm).

Identification: Upperside is chestnut brown; black borders have 2 rows of white spots; white spots are scattered at the apex. Underside of hindwing has black veins; black border has 2 rows of white spots. Upperside of male hindwing has a black scale patch.

Life history: To find females, males patrol all day. Females lay eggs singly on leaves, stems, and flower buds; which the caterpillars eat. Adults roost communally.

Flight: All year in Florida and South Texas, July-August in the north.

Caterpillar hosts: Milkweeds and milkweed vines. Some of the milkweeds contain cardiac glycosides which are stored in the bodies of both the caterpillar and adult. These poisons are distasteful and emetic to birds and other vertebrate predators. After tasting a Queen, a predator might associate the bright warning colors of the adult or caterpillar with an unpleasant meal, and avoid Queens in the future.

Adult food: Nectar from flowers including milkweeds, fogfruit, and shepherd's needle.

Habitat: Open, sunny areas including fields, deserts, roadsides, pastures, dunes, washes, and waterways.

Range: Resident in extreme southern United States south through tropical lowlands of the West Indies and Central America to Argentina. Regular stray and sometime colonist in the plains; rarely along Atlantic coastal plain to Massachusetts and the Great Plains.

Comments: The Florida Viceroy (Limenitis archippus floridensis) is edible, but mimics the Queen in order to gain some protection from predators.

Conservation: Not usually required.

The Nature Conservancy Global Rank: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.

Management needs: None reported.

References:

Opler, P. A. and G. O. Krizek. 1984. Butterflies east of the Great Plains. Johns 
     Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 294 pages, 54 color plates.

Opler, P. A. and V. Malikul. 1992. A field guide to eastern butterflies. Peterson 
     field guide #4. Houghton-Mifflin Co., Boston. 396 pages, 48 color plates.

Scott, J. A. 1986. The butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, 
     Stanford, Calif. 583 pages, 64 color plates.

Tilden, J. W. 1986. A field guide to western butterflies. Houghton-Mifflin Co., 
     Boston, Mass. 370 pages, 23 color plates.

Author: Jane M. Struttmann

State and Regional References:

Covell, Charles.  1998.  The Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera) of Kentucky: 
     an Annotated Checklist.  Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, 
     Frankfort, KY.

Layberry, R.A., Hall, P.W. & Lafontaine, D.J., 1998.  The Butterflies of 
     Canada.  University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON.  280 pp.
     
Opler, P.A. 1998. A field guide to eastern butterflies, revised format.
     Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.      
Queen (Danaus gilippus)
distribution map
map legend

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