|Three milkweed butterflies. Clockwise from left: Dark Blue Tiger (Tirumala septentrionis), Striped Blue Crow (Euploea mulciber), and Common Tiger (Danaus genutia).|
Milkweed butterflies are a subfamily, Danainae, in the family Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies. They lay their eggs on various milkweeds on which their larvae (caterpillars) feed. Historically, this group had been considered a separate family, Danaidae.
Some 300 species of Danainae exist worldwide. Most of the Danaini are found in tropical Asia and Africa, while the Ithomiini are diverse in the Neotropics. Tellervini are restricted to Australia and the Oriental region. Four species are found in North America: the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), the Queen (Danaus gilippus), the tropical milkweed butterfly (Lycorea cleobaea), and the soldier butterfly (or "tropic queen", Danaus eresimus). Of these, the monarch is by far the most famous, being one of the most recognizable butterflies in the Americas.
Milkweed butterflies are now classified as the subfamily Danainae within the family Nymphalidae. However, the previous family name Danaidae is still occasionally used. The fossil milkweed butterfly Archaeolycorea is known from the Oligocene or Miocene Tremembé Formation of Brazil. It provides evidence that the present milkweed butterflies originated more than 20-30 million years ago.
- Ackery, P. R.; Vane-Wright, R. I. (1984). Milkweed butterflies, their cladistics and biology: being an account of the natural history of the Danainae, subfamily of the Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae. British Museum (Natural History), London. p. 17. ISBN 0-565-00893-5.
- Clarke, A.R.; Zalucki, M.P. (2001). "Taeniogonalos raymenti Carmean & Kimsey (Hymenoptera: Trigonalidae) reared as a hyperparasite of Sturmia convergens (Weidemann) (Diptera: Tachinidae), a primary parasite of Danaus plexippus (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)". Pan-Pacific Entomologist 77 (?): 68–70.
- "Monarch Butterfly". National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
- Ackery, P. R. & Vane-Wright, R. I. 1984. Milkweed butterflies, their cladistics and biology, being an account of the natural history of the Danainae, a subfamily of the Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae. ix+425 pp. London.
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