More royalty in the butterfly world! The Queen (Danaus gilippus) is another of the 'Milkweed' butterflies. Sometimes mistaken for the Monarch, the Queen is a wee smaller in size with its majestic orange-y/brown colouration edged in black containing two lines of white polka-dots.
The Queen is a brush-footed butterfly in the Nymphalidae family. The wings reach from 2 5/8" to 3 7/8" wide, making them a medium- to large-sized butterfly.
Like the Monarch, adult males can be easily distinguished by the small black scale patch on the hindwing. As can be noted in their scientific name Danaus gilippus, Queens are a Milkweed butterfly and use Asclepias and related plants for their host plants. They are considered to be more of a 'warm-weather' or tropical butterfly but have been spotted in many locales. The adults enjoy nectaring from various flowers.
Like the Monarch, the Queen butterfly oviposits single creamy, football-shaped ova (eggs) on the undersides of the Milkweed leaves. Usually, eggs are laid on the undersides of the leaves, but as is the case, sometimes an egg may be laid on the top. This picture shows a Queen egg that was laid on the underside of an Asclepias curassavica (Tropical Milkweed) leaf but was turned right-side up for a better close-up view.
After about four days, a little caterpillar hatches, first eating its shell, then beginning its hunt for food. If you look really carefully, you can spot the three pairs of fleshy tubercles on this newly-hatched baby! Check out how big that black head, too…
It doesn't take long before the first molt (shedding of skin) and the beginning of the very recognizable 'look' of the Queen larva to appear. Here are two pictures of a 2nd instar. Look carefully to spot the three pairs of fleshy filaments (Monarchs have two pairs). These are often mistaken by many people to be antennae but no, they are not antennae!
Note: Clicking on pictures allows for enlarged views…
A caterpillar's main job is to eat (and poop!) and basically, to get the nutrients necessary to become a healthy adult. Adult butterflies don't take in much in the way of 'nutrition' but rely on what they eat as larvae. This is why it is critical during their larval period that they are provided with the BEST baby food available! Healthy babies=healthy adults. Here is a 4th instar Queen 'baby' who is getting closer to that time of the next stage in the life-cycle: pupa.
The Queen pupa looks remarkably like that of the Monarch although some may be a bit lighter in colour or even pink! The pupa undergoes metamorphosis (roughly two weeks). Soon, a gorgeous butterfly will eclose, ready to continue its life-cycle, once again.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Because the Danaus gilippus is closely related to the Monarch it is, unfortunately, prone to many of the same 'issues' such as OE spore and Tachinid Fly parasitization. Please refer to the Monarch section for information on these two horrendous pitfalls if you plan on raising the Queen.