African Monarch butterfly

African Monarch butterfly

The African Monarch is one of the most well-known species of butterflies in the world. It is found throughout Africa, Asia and Australia. In Asia this butterfly goes by the name of “Plain Tiger”. The African Monarch occurs throughout South Africa. They are most common in late summer or autumn, but some are on the wing all year round. They have a wingspan of 5 to 7 cm. The colours of their wings may vary from area to area, but they are always a combination of orange, white and black. One good way to identify them is by their droopy antenna.  The body colouration is black with white spots.

Why do they fly so slowly?

They have a slow, almost lazy, way of flying and this is a good indicator that it is distasteful to predators. Butterflies that fly in a faster, somewhat haphazard way are trying to make it difficult for predators to catch them. Some other species of butterflies mimic the colours of the African Monarch so that predators think that they too are distasteful when they are not. One of these is the female Common Diadem. The male Common Diadem is totally different to the female. It is black with large white spots and small patches of blue.

African Monarch butterfly
African Monarch
Female Common Diadem butterfly
Female Common Diadem

What are the host plants of the African Monarch?

Although these butterflies are likely to visit any garden, they will be more common in those gardens that include their host plants. These include plants such as various species of Asclepias, Ceropegia and Huernia. Cynanchum obtusifolium is another host plant. Interestingly they also use some of the Carrion flowers, such as Stapelia or Orbea, as hosts. The African Monarch is not as territorial as some other species of butterflies. Sometimes a male will defend a patch of milkweed from other males, while groups of them may be seen feeding together at one of your flower beds.

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