How to Attract and Identify a Queen Butterfly

Updated: Jun. 16, 2023

Share your milkweed with a queen butterfly, a regal year-round Southern pollinator. Find out what the adults and caterpillars look like.

Queen Butterfly Markings

278133872 1 Rick Williams Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Rick Williams
Queen butterflies congregating on lantana

A queen butterfly’s underwings resemble a monarch’s, with white outlines on black hindwing veins and dark borders featuring white dots. Orange forewings have white specks.

Monarch Look-Alike

Bnbbyc18 Loradel Herringshaw

To differentiate between a queen butterfly and monarch, check the butterfly’s forewings. Monarchs have black lines on the inner and outer hindwings, while a queen does not. In addition, queen butterflies are slightly darker in color than monarchs.

“I watched this queen butterfly hatch from its chrysalis. What a perfect color combination with my yellow hibiscus,” says Birds & Blooms reader Loradel Herringshaw.

See 3 types of butterflies that look like monarchs.

Where to Find Queen Butterflies

Bnbbyc16 Deborah Saldana 003Courtesy Deborah Saldana

To find one of these beautiful brownish-orange butterflies, look in open, sunny areas with flowers, including fields, deserts, roadsides and pastures. Their range includes the southern United States, especially around the Gulf Coast.

“I saw this beautiful queen butterfly (above) on a bush when my husband and I traveled to the Mojave Desert. I love the contrast between its rusty color and the yellow chaparral plant,” says reader Deborah Saldana.

Meet garden royalty: the viceroy butterfly.

What Do Queen Butterflies and Caterpillars Eat?

Queen Butterfly on MilkweedSweetyMommy/Getty Images
A queen butterfly lands on showy milkweed 

Caterpillars dine on milkweed plants or milkweed vines. Want to add milkweed to your garden, but not sure where to start? Check out our ultimate guide to milkweed.

Adults sip from many nectar flowers, including fogfruit and shepherd’s needle. Several queens may gather on the same plant to roost overnight, although there’s no obvious reason why.

Bnbbyc17 Janet Christensen 1Courtesy Janet Christensen
Queen butterflies on Mexican sunflower 

“We love when our Mexican sunflower blooms (above), because our butterfly population is best then—especially the queens,” says Janet Christensen.

Queen Butterfly Caterpillar

Queen Butterfly Larva Caterpillar (danaus Gilippus)
These caterpillars are black, white and yellow

The caterpillars have black and white stripes and yellow accents, much like monarch caterpillars. While it can be just as tricky to distinguish the caterpillars as the butterflies, you can tell them apart by their protuberances—queens have three sets and monarchs have only two.

Next, learn how to attract gulf fritillary butterflies.