Recently, I decided to learn the difference between the celebrated and now endangered Monarch and the lesser known Queen. Walking my garden, I had noticed two similar but different caterpillars on milkweed that I had not seen together before. When the weather got unusually cold, I decided to bring them inside on their hosts plants.
“You are going to make those butterflies weak!” My husband Ed told me.
I smiled, replying, “Well at least they will live.” I had researched and learned that about ten percent overall make it due to predation and the elements.
-Queen rust colored (below) all photos JTL-Monarch orange (below) both have white dots and stain glass window patternWith a little convincing, Ed helped me carry a heavy, old, lidded aquarium into my office, and the magic began. Within a few days all of the caterpillars were hanging upside down and turning into chrystalises. I noticed right away that the Queen’s case, although almost identical to the Monarch’s, was smaller and sometimes a cream-pinkish color rather than bright green. All had the distinctive and beautiful gold dots!“Ed look!” Suddenly, he was captivated!
“What are those gold dots for?” He asked.
“Perhaps camouflage, coloring -like many things with these butterflies, science doesn’t really know. An article in Scientific America says, best understood, to transform into a butterfly, a caterpillar first digests itself. But cells called imaginal disks survive, turning the soup into eyes, wings, antennae and other structures. When I look at the gold dots, they seem to line up with designs on the wings. But who knows? “
Ed quietly studied the gold spots and the emerging transformed creature. He like me, was intrigued!
So the original goal, the simple visual difference between the two?
The easiest way to show the basic differences between the Monarch and the Queen is to share some photos. It’s very clear when they are not flying around! Seventeen were born by yesterday, December 30th, 2020: seven Queens and ten Monarchs.
Ed and I released them all and all were healthy. It took about twelve days to witness Nature’s ultimate transformation. Certainly an inspiration for whatever is coming in 2021. Transform we must indeed!
-Queen -Above, newly born Queen. Below, Queen & Monarch chrystalises/markings the same but Queen smaller and sometimes cream in color rather than green-Monarch with one Queen and one Monarch broken casings/Monarch caterpillar gets ready to change -Queen caterpillar (below)-Monarch caterpillar (below) -Monarch more orange (below) -Queen more rust colored (below) -Can you tell the difference between the Queen and Monarch? I bet you can! -Release! Videos Queen opens wings to fly off; mating Monarchs in my yard: