Queen (Danuas gilippus)
With its rich reddish brown ground color adorned with classy white and black markings, the showy queen butterfly truly is royal. Like its cousin the monarch, the queen's larvae feed on a variety of milkweed species (which are toxic to most herbivores) and sequester posionous chemicals in their bodies. The adult butterflies retain these secondary toxins and are themselves unpalatable to predators. Besides being unpalatable to predators, the queen gains additional protection by being similar in color and pattern to two other unpalatable butterflies - the monarch and the viceroy. From a butterfly's point of view, being unpalatable or toxic is worthless unless it keeps the butterfly from being eaten! The queen, monarch and viceroy are all unpalatable and they strongly resemble each other. A would-be predator will learn to avoid all orange and black butterflies after having only a few bad experiences. This type of mimicry is called Mullerian mimicry.
Typically found throughout the southern-most states, the queen occasionally strays as far north as the Great Plains and Midwest. A butterfly of open, sunny locations, it frequents gardens, pastures, fields, pinelands, meadows and forest edges. Although not often overly abundant, the queen can usually be attracted by an abundance of colorful flowers and, of course, milkweed.
The viceroy, monarch and queen are all mahogany brown or orange with black wing veins and white spots, but the viceroy is the only one with a black band across the middle of the hind wings; the monarch has bold black veins on all four wings; and the queen lacks black veins on the front wings, and its white spots are much more obvious.