Unsolved Monarch Mysteries?

White Monarchs, Yellow Chrysalides, and other Rare Monarch Finds

Throughout wildlife history, much-loved monarch butterflies and their clown-colored offspring have received a disproportionate amount of conservation efforts from both enthusiasts and the scientific community. Even with this extra attention, there are still many monarch mysteries that require further exploration for better explanation.

This page is here to shine a light on these unsolved monarch mysteries:

Yellow Monarch Chrysalis (OPY)

This recessive gene condition was first discovered by a butterfly breeder in Pennsylvania and is currently being studied by Monarch Watch. I have never come across this phenomenon in the upper midwest, and have not received reports about this from the community until now….Lisa Narozniak collected 5 monarchs from her NJ garden that were also missing the familiar green gene:

Unsolved Monarch Mysteries? A fully yellow monarch chrysalis is caused from a recessive gene, and is referred to as Orange Pink Yellow (OPY).
Photos Courtesy of Lisa Lisa Narozniak in Allentown, NJ
This Yellow Monarch Chrysalis is the result of a recessive gene and not a disease.
Orange Pink Yellow

Lisa reported all her yellow chrysalides developed into healthy butterflies and were released. Interestingly, these monarchs’ veins will be flowing with yellow blood, and not the typical vulcan green.

White Monarch Butterfly

The white monarch has been called nivosus by lepidopterists and is an extremely rare phenomenon outside of Hawaii. This condition is also born from a recessive gene. In recent years, these white butterflies have been bred in the contiguous US so a few more are seeing this rare beauty flutter through their garden gates:

White Monarch Butterfly in Hawaii- Nivosus
White Monarch in Hawaii

If you know of a rare monarch phenomenon that deserves further research (and a listing on this peculiar page) please comment below…

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  1. I have one cat 3rd instar that developed blackened skin 5 days ago, yet eats & poops voraciously, very active (almost too vigorous — compared to others), getting bigger & fatter….but has not molted in over a week. none of other cats have the black skin nor molting cessation. Any insights/advice?

    1. Hi Dee, if the caterpillar is continuing to grow it has probably molted at some point when you weren’t monitoring. Some caterpillars have prominent dark stripes. There are only theories about why this occurs:

      Caterpillars with Dark Stripes

  2. In 35 years, I’ve never seen a yellow crysallis.

    I just had 2 Eastern Black Swallowtails take 3 months to hatch, and they were perfectly healthy. They overwintered.

    1. How do you over winter them so to speak? I have 7 since late July and am not sure where to put them for winter? Help It gets very cold here – Canadian winter??

        1. Hi and sorry. I dug around , trying to find a place to comment in the milkweed plant disease section and couldn’t find anywhere to post a question. “Finally” found this comment that works.

          Question… I live in RI and my common milkweed plants have a Black Soot (??) Growing on them.
          Been growing on them for a few months… but the past few weeks have been very rainy and I’m lucky if out of 20 plants if 1 or 3 don’t have this growing on them.
          The whole plant, from soil level to top of the plant. It wasnt this vad a few months ago. I thought it was normal. But now, not so sure.

          My question is, should I cut them all down and burn them , including the seed pods??
          If I dig up all the roots and use seeds from the affected pods, will the plants that emerge, next yr. have this black sooty stuff on the plants ??

          Thanks for answering my questions.

          1. Hi Jennie, sooty mold grows in the honeydew secreted by aphids. In order to develop a healthy ecosystem you need aphids, which will eventually attract their predators. I have not seen sooty mold in our northern garden for years because predators keep our aphid numbers in check.

            For future reference, if you can’t post a question on a relevant page, use the help desk icon instead. Tony

          2. I had terrible white flies and aphids that caused this problem on my common also. I cut all the leaves off and tied them up in a bag so none of the little critters could get loose again. The plants recovered just fine and put healthy new edible leaves back on. I’m in Oklahoma Zone 7A

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