How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Male and Female Monarch?

Is there a visible difference between male and female monarch butterflies? Yes, there sure is. If you’ve never known this or noticed it before, you are not alone. It’s such a subtle, small difference that you really have to know what you’re looking for to be able to tell. Yet, once you see it, it’s like you can’t unsee it. Then every time you see a monarch butterfly, you want to get an up-close look at it so you can tell if it’s a male or female.

So what’s the trick? Here’s how you can impress your friends. Male monarchs have two black distinct dots on the bottom part of their wings. Take a look here…


To really see the difference, you have to see a female monarch next…


Did you catch that? Did you see the dots missing from the female versus the male? It seems really obvious once you look for it, but it’s not something you generally look for. Plus, monarchs and all butterflies are usually moving so fast that you don’t get a good look at them. Here’s a side-by-side comparison to help.


Now the next time you see a monarch, you can look for this! This was one of the first and best tricks I ever learned while working on Birds & Blooms magazine. Our butterfly expert at the time, Tom Allen, taught me. Tom is no longer with us, and I’m sure he’d be happy to know that I’m passing on this knowledge to others.

Don’t forget to plan milkweed to support the monarch population. They need us, and it’s such an easy thing to do!

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