Butterflies and Moths of North America

collecting and sharing data about Lepidoptera

Danaus gilippus (Cramer, 1776)

Family: Nymphalidae
Subfamily: Danainae
Identification: Upperside is chestnut brown; black borders of forewings have 2 rows of white spots; white spots are scattered at the forewing apex. Underside of hindwing has black veins; black borders of both wings have 2 rows of white spots. Upperside of male hindwing has a black scale patch. Very similar to the Soldier (Danaus eresimus), but is more brown and has less defined wing veins on the upperside. Underside hindwing lacks band of pale spots present in the Soldier. Queens in the southwest (and sometimes in the southeast) have pale veins on the upperside of the hindwings, which are lacking in the Soldier.
Wing Span: 2 5/8 - 3 7/8 inches (6.7 - 9.8 cm).
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 also inedible and mimics the Queen.
Conservation: Not usually required.
NCGR: G5 - Demonstrably secure globally, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, especially at the periphery.
Management Needs: None reported.
Comments: NULL