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Butterflies are organized by family-here are quick links to each section:

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Brush-footed (Family Nymphalidae)

  • Snouts: subfamily Libytheinae
  • Milkweed butterflies: subfamily Danainae
  • Longwings: subfamily Heliconiinae
  • Admirals and relatives: subfamily Limenitidinae
  • Emperors: subfamily Apaturinae
  • Tropical brushfoots: subfamily Biblidinae
  • True brushfoots: subfamily Nymphalinae
  • Leafwings: subfamily Charaxinae
  • Satyrs and Wood-nymphs: subfamily Satyrinae
  • Morphos: subfamily Morphinae

“Most species have a reduced pair of forelegs and many hold their colourful wings flat when resting. They are also called brush-footed butterflies or four-footed butterflies, because they are known to stand on only four legs while the other two are curled up; in some species, these forelegs have a brush-like set of hairs, which gives this family its other common name. Many species are brightly coloured and include popular species such as the emperorsmonarch butterflyadmiralstortoiseshells, and fritillaries. However, the under wings are, in contrast, often dull and in some species look remarkably like dead leaves, or are much paler, producing a cryptic effect that helps the butterflies blend into their surroundings.”

Click on the butterfly name in a photo to learn more; larval host plants are listed under the name.

Time Lapse of a Monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly

Metalmarks (Family Riodinidae)

  • True metalmarks: subfamily Riodininae

“The colouration ranges from muted colours in the temperate zone species to iridescent blue and green wings and transparent wings in tropical species. The golden or silvery metallic spots on the wings in many species of the Americas gave them the English common name “metalmarks”.”

Skippers (Family Hesperiidae)

  • Spread-wing skippers: subfamily Pyrginae
  • Grass skippers: subfamily Hesperiinae
  • Giant skippers: subfamily Megathyminae

“Skippers have the antennae clubs hooked backward like a crochet hook, while the typical butterflies have club-like tips to their antennae, and moth-butterflies have feathered or pectinate (comb-shaped) antennae similar to moths. Skippers also have generally stockier bodies and larger compound eyes than the other two groups, with stronger wing muscles in the plump thorax, in this resembling many moths more than the other two butterfly lineages do.”

Swallowtails (Family Papilionidae)

  • Parnassians: subfamily Parnassiinae
  • Swallowtails: subfamily Papilioninae

“Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies in the family Papilionidae, and include over 550 species… The genera of extant swallowtails are usually classified into three subfamiliesBaroniinaeParnassiinae, and Papilioninae, the latter two being further divided into tribes. In swallowtails, besides morphological characteristics, the choice of food plants and ecological lifestyle reflect phylogeny and classification.”

Sulphurs and Whites (Family Pieridae)

  • Whites: subfamily Pierinae
  • Sulphurs: subfamily Coliadinae

“The Pieridae family consists of a large number of small to medium size butterflies, characterized by orange, white or yellow wings. 

Identification can be difficult for many nature lovers, like us! Many species of Sulphurs are quite similar in size, color, markings and flight characteristics. Plus some interbreed and hybridize which makes identification even more difficult.”

Blues and Hairstreaks (Family Lycaenidae, Gossamer-wing Butterflies)

  • Coppers: subfamily Lycaeninae
  • Hairstreaks: subfamily Theclinae
  • Blues: subfamily Polyommatinae

“The Lycaenidae are members of the Superfamily Papilionoidea, the true butterflies… The adults are typically small to tiny and often brilliantly colored–iridescent blues, bright reds, and oranges. Adults of both sexes have three pairs of walking legs, though most males have fused segments in their front legs.”

“Most adults visit flowers for nectar, but some harvesters feed on wooly aphid honeydew and some hairstreaks feed on aphid honeydew or bird droppings. Females lay single, sea urchin shaped eggs on host leaves or flower buds; the resulting caterpillars are typically slug-shaped. In many species, caterpillars depend on ants for protection, so caterpillars produce sugary secretions that are collected by the ants. Most species overwinter in either the egg or pupal stage.”

All photos © George Roark unless otherwise noted


Butterflies of the Central Arizona Highlands, by Philip McNally, PHD

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Butterflies at Home

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