Photos and information about 30 types of butterflies seen in the United States

  • What types of butterflies do you see around your house?

Butterflies have amazed people for centuries. It's amazing how a caterpillar can change into a beautiful butterfly.

Probably the most popular type of butterfly in the United States is the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs are loved and admired for their beauty and courage.

The amazing Monarch Butterflies spend their summers here in the United States. Then they migrate to Mexico or Southern California for the cold months.

A few live in Southern California, Texas and Florida all year long. They also live in the Mediterranean area, Indonesia, Australia, Hawaii and some of the Pacific Islands.

Identify the popular types of butterflies found in the United StatesMonarch Butterfly

types of butterflies seen in the united states

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

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

Black SwallowtailEastern 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 it. 2 1/2" to 3 1/2"

black swallowtail

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.


black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail ButterflyBlack Swallowtail

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

art by carol May

It is my joy to paint butterflies and all sorts of other critters, flowers and landscapes.


Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush SwallowtailSpicebush Swallowtail

The bluish on the hind-wings may be blue or white. The Spicebush has a solid orange spot on the back of the hind-wing.
3 1/2" to 4 3/4"

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine SwallowtailPipevine 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 

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 

Giant SwallowtailGiant 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.


Palamedes swallowtail

Palamedes SwallowtailPalamedes 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

Zebra SwallowtailZebra Swallowtail

The Zebra Swallowtail of the eastern US may be confused with the Tiger Swallowtail, but it is noticeably smaller with no.
2 1/2" to 3 1/2"


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

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

Western Tiger SwallowtailWestern 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

Female Tiger Swallowtail ButterflyFemale Tiger Swallowtail

There is a brown form of the female Tiger Swallowtail.

Swallowtail Butterflies

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies puddlingTiger Swallowtail Butterflies

Male swallowtail butterflies getting minerals from the wet soil.



milkweed butterflies

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch ButterflyMonarch Butterfly, topside

Monarchs are the most well-known types of butterfly. 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

Queen ButterflyQueen Butterfly, topside

The Queen Butterfly is seen from southern California to So. Georgia, Florida 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

Queen Butterfly, undersideQueen 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

Viceroy Butterfly, topsideViceroy 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

Viceroy Butterfly, 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

Painted LadyPainted Lady

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

Painted Lady

Painted Lady Butterfly, undersidePainted Lady, underside

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


American Painted Lady

American Painted LadyAmerican 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

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

Buckeye ButterflyBuckeye 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

Red Admiral ButterflyRed Admiral Butterfly

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

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


White Peacock Butterfly

White Peacock ButterflyWhite 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

Pearl Crescent ButterflyPearl 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

Red-spotted Purple ButterflyRed-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 it has no swallowtail.
3" to 3 3/8"

Question Mark Butterfly

Question Mark ButterflyQuestion 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.

Zebra Longwing

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"

Julia Butterfly

Julia ButterflyJulia 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


Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary ButterflyGulf 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"

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary ButterflyGulf 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

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

Cloudless SulphursCloudless Sulphurs

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

Cabbage White

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.

skippers

A Typical SkipperA Typical Skipper

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

Checkered Skipper

Checkered Skipper ButterflyCheckered Skipper

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


Long-tailed Skippers

Long-tailed 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

Silver-spotted SkipperSilver-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 a moth and a butterfly

  • Moths and butterflies are related. Both moths and butterflies are members of the Lepidoptera order. The order is about 89% moths and 11% butterflies.

We quite often see butterflies visiting our garden flowers. But, if there are so many moths, why don't we see more moths?

One of the main differences between moths and butterflies is moths are mostly nocturnal and butterflies are active only during the daytime.

  • Moths rest during the day, while the butterflies are out flying from flower to flower.

Sphinx Moth

Sphinx MothSphinx Moth

The Sphinx Moths are a large group of moths. They are fast flyers and range in size up to 4".

Luna Moth

Luna MothLuna Moth

The Luna Moth is a green color. It is seen across the United States and Canada, up to 5 1/2"

  • The easiest way to tell a moth is they look fuzzy or furry. Moth's scales stand up on their body and wings, so they look furry.

Butterflies and moths both have scales on their wings and bodies. (Their scales are actually modified hairs that are called scales.)

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

The moth's antennae are feathered or leaf-like. Whereas the antennae of butterflies are long, smooth and slender. Generally there is a small bulb on the end of a butterfly's antennae.

  • Watch when they land. Moths land and sit and rest with their wings stretched out. Butterflies hold their wings folded up above their head after they land.

  • Another difference is their color. Butterflies have brighter colors.

Most moths have duller colors. The dull colors don't attract the attention of predators during the daytime while the moths are resting.

  • Moths in general tend to look heavier. Butterflies look slimmer and lighter weight.

Moths have a frenulum, which is a wing-coupling device. This mechanism locks their fore and hind-wing together. So when they fly, their wings fly in unison. Butterflies don't have that mechanism.

Emperor Moth

Emperor mothEmperor Moth

The Emperor Moth is native to the British Isles. 2" to 3"

Moths have fringed antennae and furry bodies and wings.

Eyed Hawk-moth

Eyed Hawk-mothEyed Hawk-moth

Eyed Hawk-moths are native to England and Wales. 2 3/4" to 3"

Many butterflies and moths have an eye-spot for defense.

  • Many moths and butterflies have what is called an eye-spot.

The eye-spot is a defense mechanism. A bird would peck the eye-spot instead of the actual eye. So the moth or butterfly would only lose a bit of wing instead of their whole head.

Both moths and butterflies go through complete metamorphosis. Then there is a difference between a moth and butterfly.

  • Moths spin a cocoon which is covered with silk.

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

  • Butterflies make a smooth shelled chrysalis (also called a pupa) during this stage of metamorphosis.

Then the cocoon hatches into an adult moth. And the chrysalis hatches into an adult butterfly.

It's fun to learn the types of butterflies in your yard.

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



more pages to visit

  • How to Paint Watercolor

    Learn how to paint watercolor and preserve the white of the paper while painting a lovely butterfly. We use the paper because there is no white watercolor paint.

  • Art Prints for Sale by the artist Carol May

    Fine art prints for sale by the artist Carol May. Enjoy the beauty of landscapes, seascapes, flowers, butterflies, hummingbirds, and many interesting critters.

  • Butterfly Paintings

    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