Danaus plexippus

Monarch

euroButterflies

by Matt Rowlings

copyright © 2003-2016

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Photo: plexippus

Prov. Malaga, Spain, May 2008

Photo: plexippus

Malaga, Spain, October 2014

Field notes and information

The well known butterfly from north America whose migrations are legendary. It is known for its enormous communal overwintering habits in the cool hills at high altitude in Mexico. From here it migrates thousands of miles across north America to breed and as autumn approaches, later generations somehow find their way down to the winter roosts. It has recently been proven that the European species the painted lady, Cynthia cardui, actually has a much longer annual return migration starting and ending in north Africa and spread northwards to the arctic circle.

It is a worldwide species. Apart from the Canary Islands and southern Spain, I've found a few examples in Queensland, Australia in February and at many sites in New England, USA in August but always in low numbers.

Identification & Similar species: Highly distinctive. A very large orange butterfly with black veins. Similar only to the plain tiger, D. chrisippus, from which it is distinguished by its larger size, black veins and double row of white spots in the black marginal area.

Distribution & Flight: Resident in the Canary Islands and south Spain. A regular but infrequent visitor to west France and southwest UK and south Ireland.

Habitat & Behaviour: Towns and villages, river valleys and irregated areas where the food plant is either encouraged to grow or grows wild. Adults hibernate, or at least pass the winter with reduced activity, roosting in, for example, pine trees in sheltered places.

Photo: plexippus

Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

Photo: plexippus

Malaga, Spain, October 2014

Photo: plexippus

Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

Photo: plexippus

Fuerteventura, Spain, February 2014

Photo: plexippus

Malaga, Spain, October 2014

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Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

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Prov. Malaga, Spain, July 2013

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Fuerteventura, Spain, February 2014

The butterflies are a commercial opportunity.

Photo: plexippus

Fuerteventura, Spain, February 2014

Photo: plexippus

Malaga, Spain, October 2014