Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes



Superfamily Papilionoidea - Butterflies and Skippers

Northern Cloudywing? - Euphyes vestris Possible Banded Hairstreak - Strymon melinus - male id - Urbanus proteus Boloria bellona (Meadow Fritillary) ?  - Boloria bellona Sandia Hairstreak - Callophrys mcfarlandi Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton) eggs being laid - Asterocampa clyton - female Celastrina in New Brunswick - Celastrina neglecta - female Cabbage White - Pieris rapae - male
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Papilionoidea (Butterflies and Skippers)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
BugGuide primarily follows the taxonomy and nomenclature in (1)
Explanation of Names
Papilionoidea Latreille 1802
The origin of the word butterfly is uncertain. There are several theories as to the connection to butter:
Butter refers to the color of yellow species, i.e., the Sulfurs (Wiktionary)
Butterflies are attracted to milk and butter churns. Some tales consider butterflies as cream-stealing spirits. The German Schmetterling may have similar connotations (Butterfly etymology). Good summary here and in (2).
>700 spp. in North America, >14,000 total; 6‒7 families usually recognized:
Papilionidae - Swallowtails, Birdwings & Apollos
Hedylidae - American Moth Butterflies (not in or area)
Hesperiidae - Skippers
Pieridae - Whites & Sulphurs
Lycaenidae - Gossamer Wings
Riodiniidae - Metalmarks (still recognized as distinct from Lycaenidae by many workers)
Nymphalidae - Brush-footed Butterflies (certain subfamilies, e.g. Danainae, Morphinae, and Satyrinae, still sometimes treated as families, less so in recent years)
wingspan 7—300 mm
Nearly all butterflies have thin knobbed antennae and are typically active during the day.

Skippers have often been separated into their own superfamily, Hesperioidea. Most have a narrow curved tip on the antennae, the 'apiculus,' absent in other butterflies.
"Moths" include all other Lepidoptera; moth antennae are filimentous or feather-like. Many fold their wings tent-like over their backs when at rest, while very few butterflies fold their wings this way.
worldwide except Antarctica
Habitats are varied, but adult butterflies are typical of open, sunny places, such as old fields. Some groups are typical of woodlands.
Adult butterflies use their coiled mouthparts to feed, primarily to suck nectar from flowers. In the process they may transfer pollen from one flower to another, and many plants depend on butterflies (and moths) for pollination.
Nearly all caterpillars feed on plants. See World Database of Lepidopteran Hostplants, though some feed on other organic materials, and some are carnivorous.
Gender differences: "In some there are dramatic differences in pattern, scaling, structure, or shape, but in most it is more subtle. In some groups (i.e. Swallowtails) you can tell just by seeing the side or bottom of the tip of the abdomen, because the male claspers (=valvae) are very visible. In other groups (including the subfamily Nymphalinae) the claspers are harder to see, but are still there, and affect the shape of the abdomen. In males of many groups the pair of claspers, which even if hidden by a clump of hair-like scales, gives the tip of the abdomen a blunt look from the side, and usually a slightly squared or bilobed look from above or below (nearly pointed in females as veiwed from above or below). Also, the abdomen of females tends to be plump and rather symmetrical in shape, widest near the middle or sometimes the base, while the abdomen of the males is usually more slender and especially from the side less symmetrical in shape, with a tendency to be slightly widest near the end. Often males have proportionately longer abdomens, but this is more noticeable in some groups than others. In most of the family Nymphalidae, the males have the wings less full and less rounded, often somewhat more angular in shape. The hind wing of males is often distinctly more angular at the hind end (near the tip of the abdomen), while in females it is usually much more rounded. On average males tend to be smaller than females, and often more active and more inclined to chase after things or act aggressively." Comment by David J. Ferguson
Print References
Field Guides (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)
Life History/Caterpillars (10)(11)(12)(13)(2)(14)
Works Cited
1.A Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada--by Jonathan P. Pelham
2.The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide
James A. Scott. 1992. Stanford University Press.
3.Butterflies of North America (Kaufman Focus Guides)
Jim P. Brock, Kenn Kaufman. 2003. Houghton Mifflin Co.
4.Butterflies Through Binoculars: The East
Jeffrey Glassberg. 1999. Oxford University Press.
5.Butterflies Through Binoculars: The West : A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America (Butterflies and Others Thr
Jeffrey Glassberg. 2001. Oxford University Press.
6.Butterflies through Binoculars: Florida
Jeffrey Glassberg, Marc C. Minno, John V. Calhoun. 2000. Oxford Press.
7.A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides)
Paul A. Opler, Vichai Malikul, Roger Tory Peterson. 1992. Houghton Mifflin Company.
8.A Field Guide to Western Butterflies 2nd Edition
Paul A. Opler, illustrated by Amy Bartlett Wright. 1999. Houghton Mifflin.
9.National Audubon Society Field Guide to Butterflies
Robert Michael Pyle. 1981. Knopf.
10.Caterpillars in the Field and Garden: A Field Guide to the Butterfly Caterpillars of North America
Thomas J. Allen, James P. Brock, Jeffrey Glassberg. 2005. Oxford University Press.
11.The Butterflies of West Virginia and Their Caterpillars
Thomas J. Allen. 1998. University of Pittsburgh Press.
12.Handbook for Butterfly Watchers
Robert Michael Pyle and Sarah Hughes. 1992. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
13.A World for Butterflies: Their Lives, Habitats and Future
Phillip J. Schappert. 2000. Firefly Books.
14.Caterpillars of Eastern North America
David L. Wagner. 2005. Princeton University Press.