Monarch butterflies

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

This and the two illustrations below are all from photographs of living insects and are in their natural positions captured when photographed.

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. 

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Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Male and Female Monarchs
  • Author(s): Tracy Fuentes
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: December 18, 2009
  • Date accessed: June 12, 2024
  • Link:

APA Style

Tracy Fuentes. (2009, December 18). Male and Female Monarchs. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved June 12, 2024 from

American Psychological Association. For more info, see

Chicago Manual of Style

Tracy Fuentes. "Male and Female Monarchs". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 18 December, 2009.

MLA 2017 Style

Tracy Fuentes. "Male and Female Monarchs". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 18 Dec 2009. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 12 Jun 2024.

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see
A mating pair of monarch butterflies

Mating monarch butterflies.

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