Status:  uncommon breeding resident; locally common winter resident/migrant

Flights:  1-3?, Jan-Dec

Distribution/known sites in Monterey County:  widespread, lowlands to mountains; large overwintering sites along coast, as in Pacific Grove and Andrew Molera SP

Habitats:  open, sunny places, natural and disturbed - fields, meadows, parks, gardens

Host plants:  milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)

Adult foodmilkweeds, composites

Conservation: secure globally


  1.   flight powerful, lofty, soaring, graceful, wings often in a V

  2.   pops. E. of Rockies migrate S. to Mexican highlands; W. pops to CA coast

  3.   generations migrate progressively north, last brood returns to traditional sites by instinct

  4.   larvae distasteful, cardiac glycosides passed on to adults, induces retching, death in vertebrates

  5.   larvae also produce alkaloids - liver poisons/carcinogens - passed from adult fem to eggs

  6.   caterpillars are aposematic (boldly marked) to warn predators

  7.   male bright orange w/oval black scent patch (for courtship) on HW vein above, and abdominal “hair-pencil;” female dull orange, more thickly scaled black veins



Danaus plexippus

Life history facts

egg: laid singly under host leaves

larva:  eat leaves and flowers


adult:  in summer, males patrol, transfer pheromones from hair-pencil or wing patch to fem.; in winter, fly only on sunny days, take moisture and flower nectar; males physically subdue mate; most mate before leaving for north in spring, fem. lays eggs along the way

soberanes creek