thirty types of butterflies you may see around your garden

These types of butterflies are native to the United States. You can identify the butterfly types using their photos and information.

Butterflies are amazing gifts from God. People have admired butterflies for centuries. What is so amazing is how a caterpillar can change into a beautiful butterfly.

Monarch butterflies are very popular in the United States. The stunning Blue Morphos are popular in public butterfly gardens.

What types of butterflies can you identify?It's fun to learn the butterflies, - close-up of a Blue Morpho.

Blue Morpho butterflies are native south of the US in the tropical Americas. Amazingly, their blue wings are brown on the underside, as shown in the photo above.

types of butterflies seen in the united states

Click on the images to go down the page for more information.

The Monarch Butterfly life cycle and more

how do you tell a butterfly from a moth?


swallowtail butterflies

Swallowtails probably are the most remarkable of the many types of butterflies.

They are fairly large (3" to 6") and they have an elongation on the end of their hind-wings.

There is often a false eye on the swallowtail. It is their protection to keep birds from pecking their real eyes.

black swallowtail

Butterfly-Black-Swallowtail-easternEastern Black Swallowtail

The male Black Swallowtails have an orange spot on the back of the hind-wing. The orange spot has black in the center of the spot.

2 1/2" to 3 1/2"

black swallowtail

Butterfly-female-black-swallowtailBlack Swallowtail, female

The male and female Black Swallowtails may differ somewhat in their coloring.

Some resemble the Spicebush, but lack the orange spot.


art by carol May

C-Tiger-Swallowtail-on-butterfly-bushButterfly Paintings

It is my joy to do butterfly paintings, hummingbirds, flowers and landscapes.

black swallowtail

Butterfly-Black-Swallowtail-foldedBlack Swallowtail

Black Swallowtails are common in the eastern US and down to South America.


Spicebush Swallowtail

Butterfly-SpicebrushSpicebush Swallowtail

The hind-wings are bluish or white. The orange spot on the hind-wing has no black in the center of the spot.
3 1/2" to 4 3/4"

Pipevine Swallowtail

Butterfly-PipevinePipevine Swallowtail

This beautiful butterfly is seen from the Great Lakes to Southern California and down into Central America.
2 3/4" to 3 1/2"


Giant Swallowtail 

Butterfly-Giant-SwallowtailGiant Swallowtail

The Giant Swallowtail is one of the large types of butterflies. Its wing-span is 6". Their top is bright yellow and black.

It is found east of the Rockies to South America.

Giant Swallowtail 

Butterfly-Giant-Swallowtail-2Giant Swallowtail, underside

The underside of this beautiful butterfly is pale yellow with black markings.

It's hard to tell it is the same butterfly until you see it with its wings both open and closed.


Eastern
Tiger Swallowtail

Butterfly-eastern-tiger-swallowtailEastern Tiger Swallowtail

This stunning butterfly is one of my favorite types of butterflies. It is a large butterfly and it flies so softly.
3 1/2" to 5 1/2"

Western
Tiger Swallowtail

Butterfly-tiger-swallowtail-westernWestern Tiger Swallowtail

The western Tiger Swallowtail is a bit smaller than the Eastern. It has an orange and blue spot on the hind-wing.
3" to 4"


Female Tiger Swallowtail

Butterfly-female-tiger-swallowtailFemale Tiger Swallowtail

There is a brown form of the female Tiger Swallowtail.

Swallowtail Butterflies

Swallowtail-ButterfliesTiger Swallowtail Butterflies

Male Tiger Swallowtail butterflies getting minerals from the wet soil.


Palamedes swallowtail

Butterfly-Palamedes-openPalamedes Swallowtail

The Palamedes is seen in the swampy areas along the eastern United States down into the gulf coast area.
4 1/2" to 5 1/8"

Zebra Swallowtail

Butterfly-Zebra-SwallowtailZebra Swallowtail

The Zebra Swallowtail of the eastern US may be confused with a Tiger Swallowtail. But it is smaller with no yellow.
2 1/2" to 3 1/2"

milkweed butterflies

The milkweed butterflies are pretty smart. They feed on milkweeds that contain a chemical toxic to birds. So the birds don't bother them.

Monarch Butterfly

Butterfly-Monarch-topsidMonarch Butterfly, topside

Monarch Butterflies are the most well-known types of butterflies. They live from southern Canada, down to South America and out in some of the Pacific islands including Hawaii and New Zealand.
3 1/2" to 4"

Queen Butterfly

Butterfly-queenQueen Butterfly, topside

The Queen Butterfly is seen from southern California to South Georgia and Florida down to Argentina.

It may be confused with the Monarch, but it lacks the black veins of the Monarch.
3" to 3 1/2"


Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly, undersideMonarch Butterfly, underside

The Monarch has no white spots out in the middle of the fore-wing.

Queen Butterfly

Butterfly-Queen-2Queen Butterfly, underside

The Queen has white spots on the fore-wing.

brush-footed butterflies

The front legs of the Brush-footed Butterflies look a brush. They walk and stand mainly on their back legs.

We probably don't look at their legs but many of these types of butterflies are in our gardens across the United States.

Viceroy Butterfly

Butterfly-ViceroyViceroy Butterfly, topside

The Viceroy is seen in the United States east of California. It is one the types of butterflies confused with the Monarch.

It has a heavy black band across the hind-wing.

Viceroy Butterfly

Butterfly-Viceroy-undersideViceroy Butterfly, underside

The band also shows on the underside. Monarchs don't have a black band.

The Viceroy, at 2 1/2" to 3" is smaller than Monarchs which are 3 1/2" to 4"

painted lady

Butterfly-painted-lady-3Painted Lady

This lovely little butterfly is seen throughout many parts of the world. 2" to 2 1/4"

Painted Lady

Butterfly-painted-lady-undersidePainted Lady, underside

Painted Lady butterflies have very interesting patterns on the underside of their wings.


American Painted Lady

Butterfly-painted-lady-americanAmerican Painted Lady

The American Painted Lady has a large eye-spot on the back wings. The Painted Lady does not have this eye-spot.
2" to 2 1/4"

Great Spangled Fritillary

Butterfly-Great-spangled-fritillaryGreat Spangled Fritillary

The Great Spangled Fritillary is a common butterfly throughout much of the eastern United States.
2 1/8" to 3"


Buckeye Butterfly

Butterfly-BuckeyeBuckeye Butterfly

I see the Buckeyes often and they are one of my favorites because I see them so often.

They reside throughout the United States, southern Canada and some of the Caribbean.
2' to 2 1/2"

Red Admiral Butterfly

Butterfly-red-admiralRed Admiral Butterfly

The first time I saw a Red Admiral Butterfly I was amazed at their brilliant red coloring.

It can be seen throughout the United States, Europe, central Asia and North Africa.
1 3/4" to 2 1/4"


White Peacock Butterfly

Butterfly-White-PeacockWhite Peacock Butterfly

The White Peacock Butterfly is seen in parts of Texas and Florida and down through Mexico, Central America and into Venezuela.
2 1/8" to 2 3/4"

Pearl Crescent

Butterfly-pearl-crescentPearl Crescent Butterfly

The Pearl Crescent Butterfly is found thru out much of the United States (except for the west coast), parts of Canada and Mexico.
1" to 1 1/3"


Red-spotted Purple

Butterfly-red-spotted-purpleRed-spotted Purple Butterfly

This beautiful butterfly is seen in much of the eastern United States.

It mimics the Pipevine Swallowtail which is toxic to birds.

But they have no swallowtail.
3" to 3 3/8"

Question Mark Butterfly

Butterfly-question-markQuestion Mark Butterfly

The Question Mark Butterfly has a question mark on the underside of its hind-wing.

It is from southern Canada and in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, except Fl.
2 3/8" to 2 5/8"

longwing types of butterflies

The wings of the Longwing Butterflies are much longer then they are wide.

Longwings are actually part of the Brush-footed Butterflies, but who looks at their feet. It is much easier to see their long wings.

Julia Butterfly

Butterflies-JuliaJulia Butterfly

The Julia Butterfly, sometimes called Orange Longwing is actually a brush-footed butterfly.

But its wings are distinctly long.
3 1/4" to 3 1/2

Zebra Longwing

Butterflies-Zebra-LongwingZebra Longwing

Zebra Longwings are the Florida State Butterfly.

They live several months longer than other butterflies.
2 3/4" to 3 1/2"


Gulf Fritillary

Butterflies-gulf-fritillary-2Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

The Gulf Fritillary is one of the most common types of butterflies in Florida. They have orange wings with dark spots.
2 1/2" to 3 3/4"

Plant some Butterfly Flowers.

Gulf Fritillary

Butterflies-gulf-fritillary-undersideGulf Fritillary, underside

When you see the underside, you think they are different types of butterflies until you see both sides.

They have large silvery spots on the underside of their wings.

sulphurs and whites

Butterfly-Sulphurs-puddlng

Sulphurs and Whites are just like their names imply, either white or sulphur yellow colored.

They are small, but more numerous. They are the most common types of butterflies.

You may have seen Sulphurs puddling like this on damp soil. It is the males getting minerals out of the soil.

Cloudless Sulphur

Butterfly-SulphurCloudless Sulphurs

When the Sulphurs fly, they don't float, they are always flapping their wings.
2 1/4" to 2 3/4"

Cabbage White

Butterflies-Cabbage-WhiteCabbage White

I would always see white butterflies in the farm lands of California.
1 1/4" to 1 7/8"

skippers

Skippers 'skip' from flower to flower. Their wings are small in proportion to their body, so they fly in a hurry. They are a very common type of butterfly.

skippers

Butterfly-skipper-2A Typical Skipper

There are hundreds of skipper types of butterflies that are difficult for amateurs to distinguish.

Checkered Skipper

Butterfly-checkered-skipperCheckered Skipper

The delightful little Checkered Skipper is seen from southern Canada to Argentina.
3/4" to 1 1/4"


Long-tailed Skippers

Butterfly-Longtail-SkipperLong-tailed Skipper

These dark skippers have a blue-green iridescence and a long tail. They are seen from the southern United States to Argentina.
1 3/4" to 2 1/4"

Silver-spotted Skipper

Butterfly-Silver-spotted-Skipper-2Silver-spotted Skipper

The Silver-spotted Skipper is easy to identify. It is seen from southern Canada down to Florida and northern Mexico.
1 3/4" to 2 3/8"

the difference between moths and butterflies

Even though they are related, there is a difference between moths and butterflies. Some moths are just as pretty as butterflies.

What is the difference between moths and butterflies?Wouldn't this Swallow-tailed Moth make a beautiful painting?

Moths are the unsung members of the Lepidoptera order of insects. It is about ninety percent moths and less than ten percent butterflies.

If there are so many moths, why don't we see more?

  • The main difference between moths and butterflies is moths are mostly nocturnal.
  • Butterflies are active only during the daytime.
  • The easiest way to tell a moth is they look fuzzy.
This Emperor Moth has feathered antennae.Emperor Moth from the UK

Butterflies and moths both have scales on their wings and bodies. Moth's scales stand up on their body and wings. That makes them look fuzzy or furry.

Besides a hairy body, moths tend to have heavier bodies. Consequently, moths will fly slower than butterflies.

  • Another difference between a moth and butterfly is their antennae.

The moth's antennae are feathered or leaf-like. The butterfly's antennae are long, smooth and slender.

watch when they land

  • Moths land and sit down to rest with their wings stretched out.
  • When butterflies land, they hold their wings folded up above their head.

defense mechanisms

Many moths and butterflies have what is called an eye-spot. They normally are on the outer portion of the wings.

There generally are two circles with a dark spot in the middle. The dark spot mimics the pupil of mammals.

The eye-spot is a defense mechanism that works one of two ways. Either the eye-spot would scare a predator away. Or a bird would peck the eye-spot instead of the actual eye.

Then the moth or butterfly would only lose a bit of wing instead of their whole head.

Moths and butterflies are colored differently.

  • Butterflies tend to have brighter colors.
  • Most moths are duller colored. The dull colors of moths don't attract the attention of predators during the daytime while they are resting.
Luna Moths look like large green butterflies.Luna Moth, up to 5 1/2"

Moths have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling device. This mechanism locks their fore-wing and hind-wing together. So, when they fly, their wings fly in unison.

Butterflies don't have this mechanism.

Metamorphosis

Both moths and butterflies go through complete metamorphosis.

The adult female moth or butterfly lays eggs, they hatch into larvae, called caterpillars. The caterpillars eat and gorge themselves.

This stage may be called worms, like the silkworm. They behave the same as caterpillars.

Sphinx Moths are fast flyers.Sphinx Moth, up to 4"

Then comes the difference between moths and butterflies.

  • Moths spin a cocoon which is covered with strands of silk. It hatches into an adult moth.

That's how the beautiful silk clothes are made in the orient. The silk moths are raised to collect their silk to make clothing. No wonder real silk costs so much.

  • Butterflies make a smooth shelled chrysalis, also called a pupa. The chrysalis completes its metamorphosis by hatching into an adult butterfly.

The wonders of nature - moths and butterflies are different.

It's fun learning the types of butterflies visiting our yards

Whether we know the names of the butterflies and moths is not as important, as enjoying these wonderful garden gifts.

more pages to visit

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  • Beginner and intermediate artists learn how to paint a butterfly, step-by-step tutorial for painting a Malachite Butterfly with oil paint, from start to finish.

    How to Paint a Butterfly with oils

    Beginner and intermediate artists learn how to paint a butterfly, step-by-step tutorial for painting a Malachite Butterfly with oil paint, from start to finish.

  • Enjoy the confidence and fun of painting butterflies. Start painting your own watercolor butterflies and flowers with an easy step-by-step tutorial by Carol May

    Painting Butterflies with Watercolor

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  • Take the stress out of learning how-to paint a butterfly. A five step watercolor tutorial for painting a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly from start to finish.

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  • What a joy doing Butterfly Paintings! Butterflies are so awesome! When I see these gorgeous creatures in my yard, I snap photos for more paintings by Carol May

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    What a joy doing Butterfly Paintings! Butterflies are so awesome! When I see these gorgeous creatures in my yard, I snap photos for more paintings by Carol May




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