types of butterflies

butterfly types in the united states

  • Pictures and information of some common types of butterflies you may see around your house. 
  • Find out how to tell a Monarch butterfly from a Queen butterfly that looks very similar. 
  • Learn how to tell a moth from a butterfly.
  • Click on the images to go down the page for more information.
Photos and information to help you identify different types of butterflies found in the United States.Zebra Swallowtail


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.

eastern black swallowtail

photo of a male eastern black swallowtail butterflyEastern Black Swallowtail

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

It looks like a bird may have gotten the left swallowtail, but the butterfly is still okay.

beautiful butterfly paintings

Giant Swallowtail butterfly painting by artist Carol MayGiant Swallowtail

More Butterfly Paintings by Carol May

Learn how to Paint a Butterfly


black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail butterfly undersideBlack Swallowtail

They 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

picture of a Female Black Swallowtail butterflyFemale Black Swallowtail

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

Some resemble the Spicebrush, but lack the orange spot.


spicebrush swallowtail

Spicebrush Swallowtail butterfly pictureSpicebrush Swallowtail

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

pipevine swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail butterflyPipevine 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 Swallowtail Butterfly photographGiant Swallowtail Butterfly

The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is a large 6".

It is found east of the Rockies to South America.

It has bright yellow and black markings on the top.

giant swallowtail

Giant SwallowtailGiant Swallowtail

The underside 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 Swallowtail butterflyPalamedes

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 Swallowtail Butterfly is very striking.Zebra Swallowtail

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



eastern tiger swallowtail

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one my favorite butterflies.Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

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

western tiger swallowtail

Western Tiger Swallowtail photoWestern 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 butterfly pictureFemale Tiger Swallowtail

The female has bluish on the end of her hind-wings.

brown form of female

dark form of a Female Tiger SwallowtailFemale Tiger Swallowtail

There is a brown form of the female Tiger Swallowtail.




milkweed butterflies

Milkweed butterflies are one of the best known types of butterflies.

They get a chemical from milkweeds that make them taste bad to their predators.

monarch butterflies

The Monarch Butterfly is a famous type of butterfly.Monarch Butterfly

You may see the Monarch Butterfly from southern Canada, across the United States, 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 Butterfly photoQueen Butterfly

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

The Queen lacks the black veins of the Monarch.
3" to 3 1/2"


monarch butterfly

Butterflies and flowers, especially daisies are two of my favorite subjects to paint.

I enjoy painting them with watercolor or oils.

queen butterfly

Queen Butterfly on a Penta flowerQueen Butterfly

The Queen's underside resembles the Monarch.

But the Monarch does not have white spots out in the middle of the orange 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.

painted lady

Painted Lady butterflies are seen throughout many parts of the world.Painted Lady

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

painted lady, underside

Painted Lady butterfly undersidePainted Lady

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


American painted lady

American Painted Lady butterflyAmerican 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 Fritillary photoGreat Spangled Fritillary

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


buckeye butterfly

I see Buckeye Butterflies often.Buckeye 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 Butterflies have stunning color.Red 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 Butterfly picture and informationWhite Peacock Butterfly

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

pearl crescent butterfly

Pearl Crescent Butterfly is very common in the United StatesPearl Crescent

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 Purple butterfly mimics the Pipevine Swallowtail which is a toxic type of butterfly.Red-spotted Purple

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 Butterfly get its name from the question mark on the underside of its wings.Question Mark Butterfly

The Question Mark Butterfly gets its name from 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"


viceroy butterfly

The Viceroy Butterly may be confused with the Monarch, but it is smaller.Viceroy Butterly

The Viceroy may be confused with the Monarch, but it is smaller.

It has a heavy black band across the hind-wing. The Monarch doesn't have the black band.

viceroy butterfly, underside

Viceroy Butterly pictureViceroy Butterly

It is seen in the United States east of California. The band on the hind-wings also shows on the underside.
2 1/2" to 3"




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 butterfly

Zebra Longwings are the Florida State Butterfly.Zebra Longwing

Zebra Longwings are the Florida State Butterfly.

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


julia longwing

The Julia Butterfly is sometimes called the Orange Longwing.Julia 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

The Gulf Fritillary is one of the common types of butterflies in Florida.Gulf Fritillary

The Gulf Fritillary is one of the common types of butterflies in Florida.

They have orange wings with dark spots.
2 1/2" to 3 3/4"

underside of gulf fritillary

Gulf Fritillary butterfly has silvery spots on the underside of their wings.Gulf Fritillary

You may think they are different types of butterflies until you see both sides.

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


Butterfly painting by Carol MayPaint a Longwing Butterfly

painting demonstration

This Longwing butterfly is native to Mexico.

Visit the How-to painting page.

See how to paint a longwing butterfly on a butterfly bush flower.

Art by Carol May.




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.

Sulphur Butterflies puddlingSulphur Puddling
Cabbage White butterflies are common in the farmlands.Cabbage White

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

Sulphur Butterflies are always flapping their wings.Cloudless Sulphur

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




skippers

Skippers 'skip' from flower to flower. Their wings are small in proportion to their body, so they fly in a hurry.

There are hundreds of skipper types of butterflies that are difficult for the amateur to distinguish. Following are three outstanding types that are easy to identify.

skippers

Skippers 'skip' from flower to flowerSkipper

All I know is this is a Skipper.

checkered skipper

Checkered Skipper butterfly photoCheckered Skipper

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


long-tailed skipper

Long-tailed Skippers are unmistakable with their long tails.Long-tailed Skippers

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

silver-spotted skipper

Silver-spotted Skippers are easy to identify.Silver-spotted Skipper

The Silver-spotted Skipper 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

  • Butterflies and moths both have scales on their wings, but the moth's scales stand up on their body and wings. This causes moths to look fuzzy or furry.
  • Butterflies usually are bright colored.
  • Moths usually have duller colors.
  • Moths sit and rest with their wings outstretched.
  • Butterflies generally hold their wings up after they land.
  • Butterflies are active during the day and rest at night.
  • Moths are mostly nocturnal. We see them flying around lights at night.
  • Butterflies make a chrysalis during metamorphosis.
  • Moths spin cocoons with silk.
The Sphinx Moth is a fast flyer.Sphinx Moth

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

The Luna Moth is a beautiful green with an unmistakable shape.Luna Moth

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

Peacock Moth is often called a Peacock Butterfly.Peacock Moth

The Peacock Moth is a resident of Europe, rarely seen in the U.S.
2" to 2 1/2"

It is fun to learn the different butterflies in your yard. Whether you know the names of the types of butterflies is not as important as enjoying these beautiful gifts of God.

I enjoy photographing and painting beautiful butterflies. Check out some of my paintings.

There are about 192 different butterflies and moths in the state of Missouri.

Identify the Types of Hummingbirds seen in the United States.



  1. Home
  2. >
  3. Types of Butterflies