Monarch butterflies are a common sight in the summer, but did you know that there are several species of butterfly that look like monarchs? These species are found throughout North America and have colors and patterns that cause people to confuse them with monarch butterflies. And we’re not just referring to Viceroys.
You will learn more about the various butterflies that resemble monarchs in this article, as well as how to tell them apart.
12 Butterflies that look like monarchs
1. Queen butterfly
Scientific Name: Danaus gilippus
The queen butterfly is a species that resembles a monarch and lives in the same habitat. You will see both species in North America, including Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and California. They prefer open, sunny environments such as deserts, pastures, roadsides, and fields.
Queen butterfly has bright orange to reddish brown wings with black veins and a wingspan of about 3 inches. This species may resemble monarchs, but the queen’s wings have white spots on their undersides and uppersides. Similarly to a monarch, the caterpillars have stripes down their backs that are yellow, black, and white, but the queen’s caterpillars have three sets of tentacles attached to them.
Scientific Name: Limenitis archippus
The viceroy butterfly is a lovely insect that is frequently confused with the monarch due to its similar coloration and patterns. Viceroy butterfly is native to North America and is known for imitating the appearance and taste of monarch butterflies.
Just like the monarchs, they’re also bright orange, but these insects are much smaller. Viceroys also have a black line running down the back of their wings, which monarchs don’t have. These insects have a wingspan of about 2-3 inches and feed on willow and poplar plants.
3. Soldier butterfly
Scientific Name: Danaus eresimus
With its vivid orange and black stripes, the soldier butterfly has a look that is similar to the monarch. They’re widespread in North America and can also be found in the Caribbean.
These butterflies are most commonly found near citrus groves and weedy water edges, where they feed on Milkweeds and milkweed vines, which are their host plants. Though this species has the same bright orange color as monarch butterflies, their veins are much paler. The spots on their wings are all white, unlike the monarch, which has pale orange dots on its forewings.
4. Variegated fritillary
Scientific Name: Euptoieta claudia
The variegated fritillary is a butterfly that can be found throughout North America. It has brownish-orange wings with black patterns and markings and a wingspan of 1 to 3 inches. The coloration of their wings makes them look like monarch butterflies when they’re in flight.
They prefer open habitats and feed on passion vines, pansies, purslane, violets, and alfalfa. These butterflies can also be seen flying in the south from April to October, as well as in the north from summer to early fall.
5. Phaon Crescent
Scientific Name: Phyciodes phaon
The phaon crescent is a lovely butterfly that you can find all over North America, but is most common in Florida. They have brown and orange wings with black patterns and dark edges, giving them the appearance of monarch butterflies at first glance. There is also a cream-colored band on the middle of their wings that can be seen on both the upper and lower sides.
They’re medium-sized butterflies with wingspans of up to 3 inches that can be found in pastures, dunes, and along road edges. This species’ host plants are fogfruit, and mat grass, where the eggs are laid and the larvae feed.
6. Atlantis fritillary
Scientific Name: Speyeria atlantis
The Atlantis fritillary is a butterfly species native to North America that can be found as far north as James Bay. They’re medium-sized, with a wingspan of 2 inches and orange and brown wings with black margins. You can also find silvery white spots on their undersides.
This species lays eggs on violets and feeds on mountain laurel, ox-eye daisy, spirea, and common milkweed nectar. You’ll usually find them in forest openings, upland pastures, bogs, meadows, and moist canyons.
7. Regal Fritillary
Scientific Name: Speyeria idalia
The regal fritillary is a butterfly that resembles the monarch. It has a similar color and black veins and spots, but regal fritillary is also clearly different in some ways.
This butterfly is most commonly found in tallgrass prairies and open habitats. Violets are host plants for caterpillars, which feed on the plant’s leaves after hatching from eggs.
These butterflies’ wings are a bright orange color with black edges and cream-colored lines. On their upper side, white spots and black patterns can be seen. In contrast to the monarch, their undersides are covered in large white spots, and their wings are brown in color.
8. Harris’s checkerspot
Scientific Name: Chlosyne harrisii
Harris’ checkerspot is one of the most beautiful butterflies in North America, often mistaken for a monarch. It has orange and dark brown wings with a wingspan of up to 2 inches.
Unlike the monarch’s wings, the checkerspot’s wings have bolder dark brown hues on the edges and only a few orange spots in the middle. However, the undersides of these animals are more orange in color than the tops, with dark patterns and white spots. You can find these butterflies in marshes, bog edges, pastures, and meadows.
9. Gulf fritillary
Scientific Name: Dione vanillae
This brightly colored butterfly is native to the United States Gulf Coast region, as well as parts of Mexico. Although the fritillary and monarch have the same colors, their patterns are very different.
It has bright orange wings with black markings and borders, as well as white spots. The wings’ undersides are light brown with white markings. Their wingspans are 3 inches as well.
The caterpillars of these insects consume the leaves of the passion-vine plants, which are their host plants. Adults can be seen feeding on lantana, shepherd’s needle, cordias, composites, and other flower nectars.
10. Painted lady
Scientific Name: Vanessa cardui
The painted lady is an orange-colored butterfly that is sometimes mistaken for the monarch. This butterfly is widely distributed all over the world, except Antarctica.
Similar to the monarch, it has white spots on its forewings. On their orange wings, however, there are blotches of dark brown rather than lines, and their undersides are pale brown with cream or white patterns and eyespots that are blue or violet in color.
When it comes to habitat, the Painted Lady isn’t particularly picky; you can find them in gardens, wide-open spaces, pastures, and sand dunes.
11. California tortoiseshell
Scientific Name: Nymphalis californica
If you live in North America and come across a California tortoiseshell, you might mistake it for a monarch butterfly, but it’s not. They both have bright orange wings, but this butterfly doesn’t have the black lines that monarchs do.
Their bright orange wings also have dark-colored jagged edges. On its forewings, there are a few white spots and some black blotches. Caterpillars of this species feed on wild lilac species, so you may see them in areas where those plants are abundant.
12. Western tiger swallowtails
Scientific Name: Papilio rutulus
The western tiger swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly found in the United States and Canada. These butterflies have black veins and edges on their wings, similar to monarchs.
On the other hand, they have much more vivid coloring: their wings are yellow in color, and instead of having white spots along the edges, they have a distinctive tail-like feature on the hindwing that is patterned with yellow.
Blue spots can also be seen near the tail end of their wings. They’re common in wooded suburbs, canyons, parks, roadsides, and oases near bodies of water.