The purpose of this study was to assess the ecological knowledge surrounding the western queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus thersippus
(H. Bates). Specifically, our objectives were to synthesize existing data and knowledge on the ecology of the queen and use results of this assessment to inform the direction of future research on this understudied species. We identified six core areas for assessment: distribution, the biodiversity of plant resources, western queen and their host plant phenology, chemical ecology, and four key life history traits. We mapped the distribution of D. g. thersippus
from museum specimen records, citizen science (e.g., iNaturalist) and image sharing app-based observations, along with other observational data enumerating all current known plant resources and long-range movements. We assembled 14 larval food plants, six pyrrolizidine alkaloids plants and six nectar plants distributed in the western Mojave and Sonoran Desert regions of the United States and Baja California. We report on its phenology and its long-range movement. Butterfly species have declined across the western US, and western monarch populations have declined by 97%. Danaus g. thersippus
has received little research attention compared with its famous congener D. plexippus
L. Danaus g. thersippus’
desert distribution may be at its temperature limits for the species distribution and for its rare host plant Asclepias nyctaginifolia.
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