This delightful butterfly looks very similar to an orange monarch but is called the white monarch. This butterfly is somewhat of a mystery and there is some debate whether the white color is a mutation, lack of color or other theories exist as well. On the island of Oahu there is a population of about 10% of this angelic looking butterfly.
Some more information can be found in a few links that I have listed below”
“……Though one’s vision of the Monarch butterfly conjures up an image of a brilliant orange and black winged-insect, there exists a rare variation of the Monarch that “pales” in comparison. A white Monarch, named nivosus by Lepidopterists, is grayish white in all areas of the wings that are normally orange (Vane-Wright 1993). Several authors (Stimson and Meyers, 1984; Vane-Wright 1993) have assumed that the white form results from the inability of the butterfly to synthesize the normal orange pigment, but this hypothesis has never been tested. The white Monarchs appear to be normal in all other respects giving rise to many questions. Why is this form so rare? Is nivosus selectively eaten by predators? Does it have difficulty finding mates? Is the genetic basis for this form the same in all populations? These, and many other questions, need to be answered. We hope to have answers to some of these questions in the coming year…….”
“….The name “monarch” may be in honor of King William III of England. The monarch was originally described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae of 1758 and placed in the genus Papilio. In 1780, Jan Krzysztof Kluk used the monarch as the type species for a new genus Danaus.
There are three species of monarch butterflies:
D. plexippus, described by Linnaeus in 1758, is the species known most commonly as the monarch butterfly of North America. Its range actually extends worldwide and can be found in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and on Oceanic Islands.
D. erippus, the southern monarch, was described by Cramer in 1775. This species is found in tropical and subtropical latitudes of South America, mainly in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and southern Peru. The south American monarch and the North American monarch may have been one species at one time. Some researchers believe the southern monarch separated from the monarch’s population some 2 mya, at the end of the Pliocene. Sea levels were higher, and the entire Amazonas lowland was a vast expanse of brackish swamp that offered limited butterfly habitat.
D. cleophile Jamaican monarch (Godart in 1819) – ranges from Jamaica to Hispaniola.
Six subspecies and two color morphs of D. plexippus have been identified:
D. p. plexippus – nominate subspecies, described by Linnaeus in 1758, is the migratory subspecies known from most of North America.
D. p. p. form nivosus, the white monarch commonly found on Oahu, Hawaii and rarely in other locations.
D. p. p. (as yet unnamed) – a color morph lacking some wing vein markings.
D. p. nigrippus (Richard Haensch, 1909) – as forma: Danais [sic] archippus f. nigrippus. Hay-Roe et al. in 2007 identified this taxon as a subspecies:
D. p. megalippe (Jacob Hübner, ) – nonmigratory subspecies, and is found from Florida and Georgia southwards, throughout the Caribbean and Central America to the Amazon River.
D. p. leucogyne (Arthur G. Butler, 1884) − St. Thomas.
D. p. portoricensis A. H. Clark, 1941 − (Puerto Rico).
D. p. tobagi A. H. Clark, 1941 − (Tobago).
The percentage of the white morph in Oahu is nearing 10%. On other Hawaiian islands, the white morph occurs at a relatively low frequency. White monarchs (nivosus) have been found throughout the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and the United States.
Some taxonomists disagree on these classifications.
Monarchs were classified under the family Danaidae, but have been re-classified under Nymphalidae since at least 1958.……..”
I am so thankful that I was able to photograph these delicate creatures and I really enjoyed spending time at the butterfly exhibit at The Natural History Museum in New York City. When you are in the room there is an ethereal feeling and you forget about the outside world. What a wonderful place to spend an hour