monarch vs PLWe’ve all been trained to watch for monarch butterflies this time of year during their migration. There’s nothing like seeing a group of 100 in your trees at night, gathering up to catch the sun’s rays in the morning and continue their journey south to Mexico.

This time of year at The Outdoor Campus we get a lot of phone calls about butterflies. This year we’re getting more calls about painted lady butterflies than monarchs. They aren’t the same thing, but painted lady butterflies are quite interesting and very plentiful this year.

Check your sedum, Joe Pye weed and any blooming annuals this time of year in eastern South Dakota and you’ll likely see the erratic flight of the painted lady going from flower to flower. They will move in large numbers to cooler or warmer locations, depending on the time of year. The females laid their eggs on thistle or other plants in the mallow family. If you saw a lot of thistle this year, you’ll likely see a lot of these butterflies.

How are they different than monarchs? Painted lady butterflies are about 2.25″ vs. the monarch’s 4.5 to 6″ wingspan. Monarchs are orange on both the top and underside of their wings. The painted lady has a swirl of gray and grayish browns. The painted lady butterfly’s flight is erratic and fast, making them difficult to identify in the air. The monarch’s flight is softer, slower and they float some rather than fly all the time.

Painted lady butterfly
garden monarchs postcard
Monarch butterflies



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