Arizona’s Elegant Queen Butterfly

Queen Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at White Tank Mountains, AZ. Jeff blogs about the art and science of butterflies at

This was a wonderful trip to Southcentral Arizona, just outside and west of Phoenix. My wife (OBM) was Cancer-free and we flew to Sun City West to revel in the good news with her mother. I zipped out of there a couple of mornings and worked the trails of White Tank Mountain Regional Park in search of butterflies.

September 9th is not the ideal time to enjoy Arizona’s butterflies, but this trip was very productive. Our Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) sped to these wildflowers and nectared for many minutes. His behavior was more relaxed than the nectaring Monarchs we’ve studied. I had waited nearby for some time, because this wildflower species was among the only blossoms in that dry creek. The butterfly’s slowmo movements as it worked the flowers made my patience pay off.

The sky was a generous blue, the plant grew at attractive angles, and our Queen butterfly was very, very elegant. Queens, like the Monarchs that we see back east, prefer Asclepias (milkweed). I am unable to identify the wildflowers in this post. Can you? Is it an Asclepias?

The trip was such a triumph, after years of battle, but Cancer-free was not to be.