Recently, a queen (Danaus gilippus) butterfly was spotted at Chesney Prairie Natural Area by photographer Joe Neal. Luckily, he had his camera with him and was able to get some photographs of this magnificent butterfly.
Similar in appearance to the famous monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterfly, queen butterflies are rarely seen as far north as Arkansas. This particular sighting has been confirmed as a record for the first sighting of this species in Benton County.
Although it is sometimes confused with the monarch, the queen differs in some notable ways:
- The queen has a distinctive line of white spots exhibited on the outer portion of the forewing (visible above and below), ultimately forming a "Big Dipper" formation. The Monarch lacks these white spots.
- The queen has a shorter wingspan of 70 to 88 mm (2.8 to 3.5 in) versus the monarch's 86 to 124 mm (3.4 to 4.9 in).
- The queen caterpillars have three sets of protuberances (commonly called antennae) but in reality only one set is antennae, and the two others are filaments or “fake” antennae. Monarchs have one set of antennae and one set of filaments (fake).
- Monarchs are known to migrate long distances. Queens sometimes migrate, but usually mainly stay in warm climates year round.
However, the queen and the monarch have many things in common as well:
- Both the monarch and the queen rely on milkweed (a native plant) for larval food.
- They have a similar pupa, although the queen’s is slightly smaller in size and sometimes has a pinkish tinge. They both have gold flecks on the pupa, but the queen has fewer than the monarch.
- The male and female of both species can be determined easily by looking at their hindwings. Males have distinct black spots on the hindwings; females do not.
- Both queens and monarchs are prone to some of the same parasites, diseases, and predators.
- Both caterpillars have black, yellow, and white stripes.
- Both butterflies belong to the brush-foot family (Nymphalidae).