Milkweed butterfly
Milkweed butterflies are a subfamily, Danainae, in the family Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies. They lay their eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

 on various milkweeds on which their larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e (caterpillars) feed. Historically, this group had been considered a separate family, Danaidae, and the tribe
Tribe (biology)
In biology, a tribe is a taxonomic rank between family and genus. It is sometimes subdivided into subtribes.Some examples include the tribes: Canini, Acalypheae, Hominini, Bombini, and Antidesmeae.-See also:* Biological classification* Rank...

s placed herein were sometimes considered distinct subfamilies in the Nymphalidae.

There are some 300 species of Danainae worldwide. Most of the Danaini
Danaini is a tribe of nymphalid butterflies.-Classification:* Subtribus Danaina Boisduval, [1833]** Amauris** Danaus** Ideopsis** Parantica** Tiradelphe** Tirumala* Subtribus Euploeina Moore, [1880]** Anetia...

 are found in tropical Asia and Africa, while the Ithomiini
Ithomiini is a butterfly tribe in the nymphalid subfamily Danainae. Some authors consider the group to be a subfamily . These butterflies are exclusively Neotropical, found in humid forests from sea-level to 3000 m, from the southwestern United States to Argentina...

 are diverse in the Neotropics. Tellervini
Tellervini is a tribe of danaid butterflies with only the one genus Tellervo, with six widely distributed species found in Australia and the Oriental region. The taxon is apparently monophyletic, but its relationship with the other two danaid tribes is yet uncertain...

 are restricted to Australia and the Oriental region. Four species are found in North America: the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus); the Queen (Danaus gilippus); the Tropical Milkweed Butterfly (Lycorea cleobaea); and the Soldier Butterfly (or "Tropic Queen"; Danaus eresimus).

The best known member of this family is the Monarch butterfly. The larvae and the butterflies retain poisonous glycoside
In chemistry, a glycoside is a molecule in which a sugar is bound to a non-carbohydrate moiety, usually a small organic molecule. Glycosides play numerous important roles in living organisms. Many plants store chemicals in the form of inactive glycosides. These can be activated by enzyme...

s from their larval host plant, the milkweed, so they become distasteful to potential predators. These milkweed butterflies (Monarch, Queen, Soldier) eat only milkweeds (Asclepias
Asclepias L. , the milkweeds, is a genus of herbaceous perennial, dicotyledonous plants that contains over 140 known species...

) as larvae. This highly effective defense strategy shields them against almost all predators that soon learn to avoid these species after attempting to eat them.

Another member known especially for its presence in butterfly greenhouses and live butterfly expositions is the Southeast Asian Idea leuconoe
Idea leuconoe
The Paper Kite, Rice Paper, or Large Tree Nymph butterfly is known especially for its presence in butterfly greenhouses and live butterfly expositions...



Some authors classify this family as a subfamily of Nymphalidae. Many other authors accept the traditional classification of Danaidae as a separate family. This separation is based on similarity of early stages, similar habits and poisonous nature.

Features include:
  1. Small to large size butterflies. Most are not brightly coloured
  2. Forelegs modified in to brushes and are not suited for walking
  3. Sex marks appear on the wings of most males, either as patches on the hindwing or one or two brands on the forewing or with sex brand patches on either fore or hind wing. In some Euploea
    Euploea is a genus of milkweed butterflies. The species are generally dark in coloration, often quite blackish, for which reason they are commonly called crows. As usual for their subfamily, they are poisonous due to feeding on milkweeds and other toxic plants as caterpillars...

    males the dorsum of forewing bowed and in females it is straight
  4. Most Danaidae males have one or two pairs of anal hairs or pencils
  5. Most of the members are model of 'mimetic' butterfly species of other families.
  6. Danaids are poisonous and left alone by birds and other natural predators.
  7. Danaids are extremely tough and hard to kill
  8. Take part in migration
  9. Food plants belongs to Asclepiadaceae
    According to APG II, the Asclepiadaceae is a former plant family now treated as a subfamily in the Apocynaceae...

    , Apocynaceae
    The Apocynaceae or dogbane family is a family of flowering plants that includes trees, shrubs, herbs, and lianas.Many species are tall trees found in tropical rainforests, and most are from the tropics and subtropics, but some grow in tropical dry, xeric environments. There are also perennial herbs...

    , and Moraceae
    Moraceae — often called the mulberry family or fig family — are a family of flowering plants comprising about 40 genera and over 1000 species. Most are widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, less so in temperate climates...



Numerous wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s are parasitoids of milkweed butterfly caterpillars.

The extensive modification of landscapes in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, with the removal of roadside weeds that are butterfly host plants and the large-scale use of pesticides, and increased deforestation in Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, threatens the migratory Monarch butterfly.

External links

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