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What is the name of the orange butterfly with black spots?

What is the name of the orange butterfly with black spots?

Butterflies come in a stunning array of colors and patterns. One of the most recognizable butterflies is the orange and black butterfly. With its vibrant wings, it immediately catches the eye as it flits from flower to flower. But what exactly is this butterfly called? Let’s explore some quick facts about this familiar butterfly.

The Monarch Butterfly

The orange butterfly with black spots is known as the monarch butterfly. With its distinctive wings of burnt orange and black veins and border, the monarch is one of the most easily identifiable butterflies in North America.

The monarch’s scientific name is Danaus plexippus. It belongs to the subfamily Danainae, which are known as the milkweed butterflies. This is because the monarch caterpillar’s only food source is different species of milkweed.

Range and Habitat

The monarch butterfly has an extremely wide range. It is found across North, Central, and South America. In North America, it ranges from southern Canada all the way down through Mexico and the Caribbean to South America.

Monarchs inhabit a wide variety of open habitats, including fields, meadows, prairies, and roadsides. Any area that provides abundant milkweed and flowering plants is suitable for monarchs.

They generally avoid densely forested areas, instead preferring open spaces that allow them to fly freely and locate food sources.

Appearance and Size

The monarch butterfly is easily recognized by its orange and black wings. The upper side of its wings are tawny-orange with thick black borders and veins. There are also two rows of small white spots along the edges of the forewings.

The underside of the wings are paler orange. The veins are still dark black, and the white spots from the upper side show through.

Male and female monarchs look nearly identical. Females are just slightly larger, with thicker wing veins.

Monarch butterflies have a wingspan of 3.5-4 inches (8.9-10 cm). Their wingspan is second in size only to the giant swallowtail in North America.

Metamorphosis and Life Cycle

Like all butterflies, the monarch goes through a complete metamorphosis during its lifetime. There are four stages in the monarch’s life cycle:

  1. Egg
  2. Larva (caterpillar)
  3. Pupa (chrysalis)
  4. Adult butterfly

It starts when a female monarch lays an egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. The egg hatches in 3-5 days. The caterpillar emerges and eats milkweed leaves voraciously, growing rapidly.

The caterpillar then forms a chrysalis and begins its transformation into a butterfly. This pupal stage lasts 8-15 days. Then the adult monarch emerges from the chrysalis, expands and dries its wings, and is ready to fly.

From egg to adult monarch, the lifespan of one generation is around 4 weeks. Monarch butterflies go through multiple generations over the course of one year.


One of the most fascinating things about monarch butterflies is their incredible mass migration every winter. Eastern populations of monarchs migrate thousands of miles to overwintering sites in central Mexico.

Western populations overwinter in coastal California. The monarchs cluster together on trees in massive numbers, covering them in orange. In spring, the monarchs break up their overwintering sites and begin the long journey north again to breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada.

No single monarch completes the entire round trip migration. It takes multiple generations, each traveling part of the journey during their 4-week lifespans. Some researchers believe the migration is driven by an inherited compulsion to fly north or south during certain times of the year.


Caterpillars are completely dependent on milkweed plants. They eat different parts of the plant, including leaves, stems, flowers, and seed pods. Milkweed contains toxic chemicals called cardenolides, which are harmless to the caterpillars but make them unpalatable to predators.

Adult monarch butterflies drink the nectar of many wildflowers and garden plants, including:

  • Aster
  • Butterfly bush
  • Coreopsis
  • Ironweed
  • Lantana
  • Lilac
  • Marigold
  • Phlox
  • Zinnia

Nectar provides carbohydrates, and butterflies get other nutrients from pollen.

Predators and Threats

Monarchs face many predators at all stages of their life cycle:

  • Caterpillars are eaten by ladybugs, stink bugs, ants, and praying mantises.
  • Chrysalises are parasitized by tachinid flies and parasitoid wasps.
  • Birds, spiders, lizards, and small mammals eat adult butterflies.

Monarch populations are threatened by:

  • Loss of milkweed from overuse of herbicides and development.
  • Habitat loss from human activities.
  • Increased use of pesticides and insecticides.
  • Extreme weather events during migration.

Protecting and restoring milkweed habitat and adopting more pollinator-friendly land management practices can help conserve monarch butterfly populations.

Fun Facts

  • The monarch is the state insect of Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
  • Monarch wings contain pigments that absorb UV rays, helping the butterfly orient itself on sunny days.
  • To prepare for winter migration, monarchs eat more milkweed to fuel up and gain lipids for energy.
  • The monarch life cycle helps make them resistant to predators – each stage has a different look and defense.
  • Monarch butterflies taste bad to predators because of toxins absorbed from milkweed.


With its bright orange wings, the monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable and well-studied butterflies. This unique insect has a fascinating life cycle, complex migratory patterns, and important ecological relationships.

While monarch populations have declined in recent decades, there are active conservation efforts underway to protect and restore habitats for this iconic butterfly across North America.

The monarch migration is an awe-inspiring phenomenon that reveals the incredible abilities of even small creatures. Making an effort to learn about, appreciate, and protect monarchs and other pollinators can help ensure these beautiful insects continue grace our fields and gardens for generations to come.

Stage Appearance Duration Diet
Egg Tiny, round, ridged, pale yellow 3-5 days None, egg contains all nutrients for caterpillar
Caterpillar Black, white, and yellow stripes lengthwise on body. Prominent antennae. 10-14 days Milkweed leaves
Pupa (chrysalis) Teardrop-shaped, green with gold dots. Attached by silk to a stem or leaf. 8-15 days None
Adult butterfly Orange wings with black veins and white spots along edges. Black antennae and legs. 2-6 weeks Flower nectar