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Difference Between Viceroy and Monarch (Butterfly)

Viceroy vs Monarch (Butterfly)

Due to their like appearances, the Viceroy and Monarch butterfly are often confused with each other. Both butterflies have different species but resemble each other in their identical physical appearance of having dark orange or amber-colored wings with black stripes or veins. On the edges of the butterflies’ wings there are black trims and white spots.

Aside from an almost identical appearance, the Viceroy and Monarch butterflies can be seen in the same geographical areas like the United States, Southern Canada, and Northern Mexico. The main reason for the similar appearance is because the Viceroy butterflies “mimic” the Monarch butterflies. By mimicking the Monarch butterfly, the Viceroy butterfly can be confused with the other butterfly and can be protected from various predators.

The model in this picture is the Monarch butterfly which is one of the recognized butterfly species in the world. It also has the reputation of being toxic when eaten, a good reason why many predators would often stay away from the Monarch butterfly when in sight. The Monarch butterfly gets the toxin due to its diet of milkweed which contains alkaloids.

The Viceroy butterfly takes this advantage by mimicking the appearance of the Monarch butterfly with its amber-colored wings. The amber color is a warning and a signal that the butterfly carries toxin in its system. Under the principle of Mullerian mimicry, both the Monarch butterfly and the Viceroy butterfly can benefit from each other and also be protected from being eaten by each butterfly’s predators.

Taking aside the stark similarity between two species of butterflies, there are major differences between the two. Viceroy butterflies and Monarch butterflies are not closely related though they share the same classification from Kingdom to Order. The difference begins with the subfamily to the species name. The species name of the Viceroy butterfly is Limenitis archippus while the Monarch butterfly is Danaus plexippus.

Another difference is in the comparison of both butterflies’ anatomy. Though the Viceroy and the Monarch have similar appearances, subtle differences like the Viceroy’s black, horizontal stripe on its bottom or hind wing is a major clue to identify the name or identity of the Viceroy butterfly.

Both butterflies also differ in their degree of toxicity. The Monarch butterfly is considered as the more poisonous and more lethal butterfly to consume while the Viceroy carries a toxin but not enough nor potent enough compared to the Monarch butterfly. Unlike the Viceroy butterfly, the Monarch butterfly is bigger in size and has a wider wingspan. The Monarch butterfly also has the practice of migrating in the spring from Central Mexico to Central Canada.

The two butterflies also differ before coming to their final transformation. The Monarch butterfly as a caterpillar is a creature in white, black, and yellow while the young Viceroy caterpillar is a creature in brown or olive green with a white spot on the back. As a pupa, the Viceroy is a brown or cream animal colored like a dead leaf while the Monarch pupa is a living thing with a green color like a young leaf.

The diet of the two butterflies is also different. The Monarch butterfly eats milkweed and ingests the alkaloid which makes it poisonous to other animals while the Viceroy butterfly eats the Poplar and Willow trees.

While in flight, the Monarch butterfly glides more smoothly than the Viceroy butterfly.


1.The Viceroy and Monarch butterflies have a similar look and are similar in most scientific classifications. However, there are subtle differences between the two species.

2.The first main difference is their scientific names. The Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) has a different scientific name and is not closely related to the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).

3.Even though both butterflies resemble each other identically, the Viceroy butterfly has a black, horizontal stripe on the back of its hind wing.

4.Another difference is their diet. The Monarch butterfly eats milkweed while the Viceroy butterfly eats Poplar and Willow trees.

5.The size is another category of difference. The Monarch butterfly is larger and has a larger wing span compared to the Viceroy butterfly.

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