School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow upshow/hide menu

Ask A Biologist heading
monarchs subheader image

Male and Female Monarchs


How to Identify a Male and Female Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies may all look the same, but there is a way to tell the difference between a male and a female. Here is the key to identifying them.

Male Monarch

Males have thinner wing veins than females do. The males also have two distinct black spots on the lower (hind) wings.

 male monarch

Female Monarch

Females have thicker wing veins than males and lack the black spots on the lower wings. 

female monarch

 

How to Identify a Monarch Butterfly

Oftentimes, other butterflies are mistaken for monarch butterflies. Some species have evolved to look like monarchs because it helps them keep predators away (as monarchs are bad tasting and poisonous). So how can you tell what is a monarch and what isn't?

viceroy butterfly

This viceroy butterfly looks a lot like a monarch, but there are many small differences.

First, you can see that the patches on the wings are different. The viceroy has a line that goes across the hind wing, making it look like it has two main sections. Monarchs do not have that line. 

The back of the viceroy's body doesn't have any of the white dots seen on the back of the monarch's body. And if you look at it from the side, you can see the viceroy has a few larger spots than the monarch, as well as white stripes along its body. The monarch's body is all spotted, with no striping. 

monarch viceroy comparison

 


Additional images via Wikimedia Commons. Mating monarchs by forehand.jay. Viceroy from the back by Benny Mazur. 

mating monarchs

Mating monarch butterflies.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow up  Learn More

mating monarchs

Mating monarch butterflies.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.