Standardized Butterfly Names / Monarchs

Doug stelenes at
Sat Mar 28 20:02:44 EST 1998

Wanda Dameron wrote:

> > whatever it's worth, in something written by either Pyle or Opler, it
> > was noted that a Monarch has always been a Monarch, but has had over 70
> > scientific names......

In the context of this thread, this suggests that the common name Monarch has no synonyms.  I doubt such fine experts as Bob Pyle or Paul Opler really meant to say this.  Since 1758, when Linnaeus named the [The Monarch Butterfly, Monarch, Milkweed Butterfly, Black-Veined Brown Butterfly, etc., etc.], plexippus has been the only scientific name of the species.

Butterflies in the Danaus genus have had about 25 genus scientific synonym names as taxonomists have spent their lives figuring out what exactly defines and separates similar other butterflies.  I think there were only two species names now considered incorrect, after plexippus, which theoretically weren't scientific names due to their junior status.  Perhaps the three times 25 is what gives the misleading "over 70".

Just as some favor calling the Danaidae "Milkweed Butterflies" today, Klots called this family collectively "The Monarchs" in his landmark Peterson Field Guide   Opler changed this name in 1992 for that same guide. Danaids also is technically a common name.As a child I called the Monarchs "Orange Butterflies".  As Kenelm's point suggests, "Monarch" has become a name to cover all butterflies for many.  Compared to the 5,000 to 10,000 members of
butterfly organizations in the the US, millions of people call all butterflies Monarchs.

Thus, the Monarch has certainly had more combinations of common names than scientific ones since 1758.  And more of the general population have certainly confused other butterflies with Monarchs than those professing to be Lepidopterists have.

I am glad an effort is being made to develop standardized names for where their application makes sense and commend all of you who have shown how much you care with these comments.  Great we always return to good science!

Doug Dawn
N. 25º 37.408'
W. 100º 22.003'
Altitude 910 meters
Sylvania Pinus-Quercus

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