Butterflies are one of the most attractive and strikingly beautiful insects you may see in your yard. Since they pollinate flowers and eat common garden pests, all varieties of butterflies are beneficial insects. The monarch butterfly is the most well-known insect.
Butterflies, on the other hand, number in the thousands with 18,500 species across the globe. North America is home to roughly 700 butterfly species, out of the thousands found across the globe.
Butterflies live for a variety of different lengths of time depending on their species and activity. Several butterfly species may live for many months and cover long distances. Other butterfly species may only survive for a few weeks. You’ll discover how to tell the difference between several sorts of butterflies that may be found in woods and summer gardens in this article.
What do Butterflies Symbolize?
Warm summer days are synonymous with butterflies fluttering around gardens. Butterflies, on the other hand, have a special significance or connotation for certain individuals. Butterflies have come to signify long life or love in Asian cultures, for example.
When the caterpillar dies and is reborn in a new body, the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly represents the resurrection in Christianity. The fluttering of a red butterfly around you might signify good news, whereas white butterflies may signify good luck in other civilizations.
How to Identify a Butterfly
Butterflies are a group of insects with four wings that are mostly brilliant in hue. The class Insecta (butterflies and moths) belongs to the order Lepidoptera, and these animal types belong to it. Moths belong to the Hedylidae family, which includes six butterfly families. Butterflies have six legs, and their body is divided into three sections: head, thorax (chest or mid part), and abdomen (tail end). Butterflies have an exoskeleton and two lengthy antennae on their heads.
Before metamorphosis, all butterflies transform from crawling caterpillars. Caterpillars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, yet they all look different from each other. A long green caterpillar with black and yellow stripes, for example, is the well-known orange and black monarch butterfly.
Butterflies are completely harmless and don’t bite or sting people, despite the fact that some caterpillars do. This implies that collecting butterflies without fear of being stung is permissible.
Male butterflies’ slender bodies and varied wing designs are often used to identify them. In comparison to male butterflies, female butterflies have a more rounded abdomen. Male and female butterflies also have different wing markings. For instance, while the females don’t have a black dot at the base of their hind wings, male monarchs do.
Most insects in North America and Europe are medium-sized, with males and females monarch butterflies being two examples. The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly, with a wingspan of almost 10″ (25 cm), is the largest species of butterfly. The Western Pygmy blue butterfly, which is just 0.5″ (1.3 cm) in size, is the smallest of all butterflies.
Identification of moths vs. butterflies
The difference between moths and butterflies is typically easy to spot. Some moths, on the other hand, are rather colorful yet have various traits. Moths, for example, are mainly active at night. Butterflies, on the other hand, keep their wings closed when resting, whereas moths keep their wings open.
Moths have feathery and shorter antennae, while butterflies have thin and long antennae. Moths have feathery shorter antennae, whereas most butterflies have thin slender antennae.
Main Families of Butterflies
The family to which each butterfly species belongs is classified. Certain butterfly groups have a number of identifying traits. The following are the major butterfly families:
The Nymphalidae Monarchs, admirals, emperors, and tortoiseshells are among the approximately 6,000 butterfly species in the family. Little butterflies of bright colors may be found in the Lycaenidae family, which includes approximately 6,000 distinct species.
Hesperiidae, Skippers are a group of tiny butterflies with backward-facing antennae.
Papilionidae Butterflies with tiny tails on their wings are easily identifiable.
Pieridae Over 1,100 butterfly species belong to this family, which originates from Africa.
Riodinidae The metallic colors on the wings of this group of butterflies are fascinating. Metalmark butterflies are another name for them.
Types of Butterflies With Pictures and Names
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most frequent butterflies you may expect to see flying about your yard on warm sunny days.
With its orange wings, black veins, and white markings, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a popular butterfly. Monarchs have a wingspan of 3.5 to 4 inches (9 to 10 cm) and rest with their wings closed. They are also known as ‘common tiger butterflies,’ ‘the wanderer,’ and ‘milkweed butterflies.’
North America and portions of Central and South America are home to monarchs. Australia, North Africa, and Pacific Ocean islands are all home to these orange and black butterflies. Migrating thousands of kilometers is also a monarch characteristic.
Red Admiral Butterfly
The red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) has black or brown wings with vivid orange/red and white markings, making it a medium-sized butterfly. These have a wingspan of 2″ (5 cm) and are somewhat smaller than the graceful monarchs.
In North America and Europe, red admirals are frequently seen in woodlands. These butterflies are frequently seen resting on stinging nettles and eating the appropriately named butterfly bush (Buddleia).
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
The genus Papilio includes a variety of large, stunning butterflies with black and yellow wings and red and blue patterns. In the Papilionidae family, the black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is a particularly stunning butterfly. Its hind wings feature yellow lines or dots, while its forewings are black.
The base of its hindwings also has stunning blue and red patterns. The hind wings of this butterfly have tails, as do the majority of butterflies from this family. The black swallowtail is also known as the “parsnip swallowtail” and the “American Swallowtail.”
The giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) is the greatest butterfly in North America and the globe, with huge black wings with yellow bands and a little red spot. The average wingspan of male giant swallowtails is up to 5.8 inches (15 cm). In summer gardens, their striking black and yellow color contrast wonderfully with green foliage.
The giant swallowtail, like all Papilio butterflies, possesses hind wings with tails. The butterfly wings appear to be pointed as a result of this. Its forewings have a thick yellow stripe, and its hind wings have yellow markings on the margins. The red and blue patterns on the giant swallowtail’s hind wings towards the center and base are one of its distinguishing characteristics.
Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly
The red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is divided into two major groups: white admirals and poisonous pipevine swallowtails. The family Nymphalidae, which includes the white admiral, contains this butterfly.
These stunning flying insects may have black, blue, or red wings, despite being called a “red-spotted” butterfly. On the bottom and top of the wings of the white admirals, a white band is seen. The red-spotted purples, another species of this genus, lack these characteristics. Since there are so many hybrids in this species, it’s impossible to define precisely what kind of butterfly it is.
Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
The tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is another of the stunning butterfly species from the Papilionidae family. It has black and yellow wings for males and blue markings on the hind wings for females. The upper side of its forewings are striped with tiger stripes, and this tailed butterfly has yellow and black patterns. Tiger swallowtails may be found on asters and sweet peas in the summer and autumn.
The different wing patterns on male and female tiger swallowtails can be used to differentiate between them. The males have a black band on their wing edges, whereas the female species has blue markings on the lower part of its hind wings.
The magnificent pipevine butterfly (Battus philenor) has black and blue wings with orange dots beneath them. The iridescent blue patterns on the hind wings of this swallowtail are black. Between the veins underneath the wings, you’ll also notice intriguing orange patches with black outlines.
In North and Central America, pipevine swallowtails may be found in forest biomes. Pipevines are big butterflies, as are many of the Papilionidae family. Their wingspan ranges from 2.8 to 5.1 inches (7 to 13 cm), and they have black and blue wings.
Orange Sulphur Butterfly
The orange sulphur butterfly has orange and brown wings on the top with yellow-colored wings underneath (right). Clouded yellows and other clouded sulphur butterflies are closely related to this butterfly species from the genus Colias.
The orange sulphur butterfly’s orange rounded wings, as well as its brown border around the forewings and hindwings’ margins, are distinctive. In the forewings, you’ll see just a single black or brown dot, while in the hind wings, you’ll see an orange dot.
If you see an orange butterfly fluttering about, it may signify happiness, passion, or a call to be cheerful in some societies. Clouded sulphur butterflies have pale cream-colored wings, similar to that of a butterfly.
Zebra Longwing Butterfly
Because of its black and white striped wing patterns, the zebra longwing butterfly is known as Heliconius charithonia. Texas, Florida, and South and Central America are home to these exquisite butterflies from the family Nymphalidae.
The wingspan of zebra longwings is 2.7 inches to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm). There is a white stripe running laterally on the black wings, as well as a few diagonal stripes. The stripes of some butterflies may be yellow, as seen up close in photographs. On the base of the black hind wings, there is also a row of white dots.
Northern Pearly-Eye Butterfly
Northern pearly-eye butterflies (Enodia anthedon) are forest dwellers that have a wingspan of 1.7 to 2.6 inches (4.3 to 6.7 cm). The eye-like patterns on the light brown ventral (underside) wings are a distinguishing characteristic of this small butterfly species. A row of black dots runs along the margins of the dorsal (upperside) wings, which are brown-gray in hue.
Northern pearly-eyes like dung, fungus, and roadkill, despite their lovely appearance. Birch, poplar, and willow trees are common habitats for them in forests.
California Sister Butterfly
The California sister butterfly (Adelpha californica) has orange patterns and white bands on its black wings. The wingspan of these huge butterflies from the Nymphalidae family is up to 4″ (10 cm) and they are fast flyers. This attractive butterfly species may be found in California and the United States’ western coast, as its name implies.
Look for orange patches on the tips of the forewings to determine if you have a California sister butterfly. On the wings, there is a white diagonal stripe. On the undersides of the wings, these patterns are repeated. The dorsal wings might also be colored orange, white, blue, or brown.
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell Butterfly
The fire-rim tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti) is a single species in the genus Aglais that belongs to the family Nymphalidae. It is commonly found in wet and moist environments. This little butterfly flutters through the woods on a regular basis.
Orange and cream-colored bands along the wing edges are visible on the tortoiseshell of the Milbert’s tortoiseshell, which help to identify it. Because of the dusty-orange on black contrast, the dorsal wings are more prominent. The brown-like color of the ventral wings is duller.
The Buckeye Butterfly
The buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) is one of the most gorgeous butterflies in North America, with its iridescent eye-like patterns. The big eye-like patterns on the brown wings help keep predators at bay. Orange, white, and streaks of blue are among the identification marks on its wings.
They have a wingspan of around 5 cm. Buckeyes are frequently seen on snapdragons, plantains, and other brightly-colored flowers on hot summer days. The buckeye butterflies, strangely, prefer yellow flowers’ nectar.
Question Mark Butterfly
Due to a white mark on the underside of the hind wing, the question mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) is commonly found in open spaces and wooded areas. With pointed tips and an uneven edge, they have an interesting wing shape. These butterflies have a wingspan of 1.8 to 3 inches (4.5 to 7.6 cm) and are classified as “question marks.”
Their fiery orange wings have thin white borders and black speckled patterns. These flying insects have a totally different color on their underside wings. When the butterfly closes its wings, they become brown and pointed, with jaggy wings that resemble dead leaves. To protect itself from predators, the shrub has excellent camouflage.
Painted Lady Butterfly
The lovely painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) can be found in America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Because of its extensive range, the butterfly is also known as the ‘cosmopolitan’ butterfly. The painted lady, like the queen, has orange, black, and white stripes that are similar in some ways. The veins on this butterfly’s wings, on the other hand, are less visible. Black, brown, and white dots on the orange forewings’ tips. Two or three rows of tiny black or brown dots run down the hind wing.
The painted lady resembles a distinct species when it closes its wings. The wings have a pale-brown coloration with large eye-like dots on the underside. The eye markings frighten away would-be predators, and these characteristics function as both a disguise and bird droppings on a leaf.
The glasswing butterfly (Greta oto) is distinguished by its transparent wings with an orange border around the margins. With its four transparent wings and the only coloration around the margins, identification of this butterfly species is simple. Because of its thin physique, the butterfly appears to be delicate and fragile.
Glasswings are a joy to watch, as they are most often seen in warmer climates such as Texas, California, and South America. The biggest species has wingspans of 2.4 inches (6 cm), and they are moderate-sized insects.
The cabbage white (Pieris rapae) is a renowned and typical butterfly that can be found in numerous gardens. Cabbage butterflies may be found all over North America and Australia, despite their European, African, and Asian origins. Their wingspan may be as short as 1.3 inches (3 cm), making them smaller than other butterfly species.
The white-colored wings with black dots on them distinguish cabbage white butterflies. The black patterns on the white wings may be used to differentiate males and femen. Females have multiple black specks on their wings, whereas males only have one.
Cabbage whites are often found eating asters. Yet, cabbage white larvae can eat their way into the center of the head of cabbage and destroy the crop by becoming green-colored caterpillars.
Great Spangled Fritillary
The great spangled fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) is distinguished by its bright orange wings. The forewings and hindwings of the orange butterflies are almost dazzling in hue. Between the black veins on the orange wings are rows of black dots and dashes. This has a truly stunning appearance because the centers of the wings are in deeper orange hues. The patterned black designs on the orange wings of this gorgeous butterfly earned it its name.
The dorsal wings are also stunning. The butterfly’s wings are light brown with irregular white patterns when it rests and folds its wings up. Another way to deceive predators is through camouflage.