- Photo: Angie Perryman
In warmer climates they are active year round. They like warm sunny days and they don’t like wind.
Queen butterflies, like their relatives the Monarchs, belong to the family of milkweed butterflies (Danaidae). Queens are large butterflies having a wingspan of 2.75 to 3.25 inches. They have dark brownish orange wings, which have black edges with white spots. Both sides of the Queen’s wings are the same color, unlike Monarchs, which are lighter underneath. Queens are more commonly found in Tucson than are Monarchs.
Queens are usually found in open habitats such as brushy fields, roadsides or washes. The female lays its eggs on milkweed plants, which serve as food for the emerging larvae. Milkweed contains toxins called cardiac glycosides, which make even the adult butterflies very distasteful to predators such as birds.
Adults feed on nectar of tall flowers. Adult males are attracted to the flowers of Eupatorium and Ageratum, common landscape plants. These flowers contain alkaloids, necessary for breeding.
In warmer climates they are active year round. They like warm sunny days and they don’t like wind. At night they often roost in groups in trees or shrubs. They are strong fliers and have been observed migrating through southern Texas. Their migration pattern however, is not as well documented as that of the Monarch.
Mating occurs mostly midafternoon. A male seeks out a female near milkweed plants. He will hover over her releasing a sex pheromone that makes her receptive to mating. The female lays small white eggs that hatch into black and white striped caterpillars with yellow spots. They then go through six instars before pupating. The adult emerges after 7 to 10 days. Adults can live two or three months, a long life for a butterfly. They can have three or more broods a year.