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Santa Barbara Field Guides Butterflies

     Danaus plexippus


Size: wingspread 3-4.5 in.
Recognition: Distinctive and unique; bright orange cells outlined with black vein pattern; females slightly duller orange/brown with bolder black veins.
Flight period: Monarchs may be seen at any time of year in our area; inland populations are depleted in late fall and winter by coastward migration.
Hostplants: Refered to as the "milkweed butterflies." Larvae of all Monarch and the closely related Queen butterflies feed exclusively on milkweed (Asclepias and relatives), which makes them poisonous to predators.
Habitat: They are found in a huge range of settings, including urban areas, grassland, oak woodland, though rarely seen in deserts; overwintering sites are mostly located in coastal eucalyptus groves.
Distribution: Found throughout most of North America, including Mexico and southern Canada.
Other: Santa Barbara is lucky enough to be a major overwintering site for Monarchs. Starting in late fall, when temperatures begin to drop, the butterflies descend in huge numbers upon Santa Barbara, in the tens of thousands at places such as Goleta's Ellwood Grove.

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