How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Male or Female Monarch?

by Stacy Tornio

Is there a visible difference between a male or female monarch butterfly? Yes, there sure is. If you’ve never known this or noticed it before, you are not alone. It’s such a subtle, small difference that you really have to know what you’re looking for to be able to tell. Yet, once you see it, it’s like you can’t unsee it. Then every time you see a monarch butterfly, you want to get an up-close look at it so you can tell if it’s a male or female.

So what’s the trick? Here’s how you can impress your friends and learn the difference between a male or female monarch.

Males have extra markings.

Male monarchs have two black distinct dots on the bottom part of their wings. Take a look here…

Monarch_Butterfly_Male_DestinationNature

Females lack this marking.

To really see the difference, you have to see a female monarch next…

Monarch_Butterfly_Female_DestinationNature

Get the side-by-side view to see male or female monarch.

Did you catch that? Did you see the dots missing from the female versus the male? It seems really obvious once you look for it, but it’s not something you generally look for. Plus, monarchs and all butterflies are usually moving so fast that you don’t get a good look at them. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to help.

Monarch_Butterfly_Male_and_Female_DestinationNature

Now the next time you see a monarch, you can look for this! This was one of the first and best tricks I ever learned while working on Birds & Blooms magazine. Our butterfly expert at the time, Tom Allen, taught me. Tom is no longer with us, and I’m sure he’d be happy to know that I’m passing on this knowledge to others.

Don’t forget to plant milkweed to support the monarch population. They need us, and it’s such an easy thing to do!

Did you see our recent starfish facts article? Check it out here. 

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