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Male or female? How to tell if a monarch butterfly is a boy or a girl

During monarch tagging at Dee’s Bee & Butterfly Festival, taggers often get to choose whether they want to tag a male or a female monarch butterfly.

Then the next question is, how do the staff helping with tagging know the difference?

There are two very simple ways to tell apart a male and female monarch butterfly. First, male monarchs have a spot on each hindwing.

Photo of a male monarch butterfly

Male monarch butterfly

Scientists are not sure what physiological purpose that these dots have, but they definitely mark a male. A female monarch butterfly does not have these dots.

Photo of a female monarch butterfly

Female monarch

You might have noticed in the above photos that not only does the female not have the hindwing spots, it also has thicker veins — the black lines that run through the wings. Males have thinner lines while females have thicker lines.

Photo of a monarch butterfly

Female monarch with thicker veins

Photo of a monarch butterfly

Male monarch with thinner veins

Now when you see a monarch in the wild, you can tell if it’s a male or female!

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