Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 14 results
Media
Several regal fritillaries feeding on butterfly weed
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 700 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Learn about butterflies and skippers as a group. What makes a butterfly a butterfly? How are they different from moths? What are the major groups of butterflies?
Media
Photo of an eastern comma butterfly, wings spread, showing dorsal side of wings
Species Types
Scientific Name
Polygonia comma
Description
The eastern comma is named for a small white mark on the underside of the hindwing. It flies spring through fall, and even in winter, on warm, sunny days.
Media
Photo of an eastern tiger swallowtail resting with wings spread open
Species Types
Scientific Name
Papilio glaucus
Description
The beautiful eastern tiger swallowtail ranges across Missouri and is equally at home in forests or in city landscapes.
Media
A wavy-lined emerald moth resting on a glass window
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 250 species recorded for Missouri
Description
Geometrid moths usually hold their wide wings spread flat against the surface they’re resting on. The caterpillars in this large family are twig mimics; called inchworms or loopers, they “walk” by humping their backs.
Media
Gray comma perched on a flower, winged closed
Species Types
Scientific Name
Polygonia progne
Description
The gray comma is easy to ID if you can see the underside: it is charcoal gray with many fine dark streaks, and its comma marking is L-shaped and narrows to a fine point at each end.
Media
Forage looper moth perched on a brick wall, viewed from side
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 12,000 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Learn about moths as a group. What makes a moth a moth? How are moths different from butterflies? What are the major groups of moths?
Media
image of a Nessus Sphinx
Species Types
Scientific Name
Amphion floridensis
Description
The Nessus sphinx is a common Missouri moth. It hovers near flowers, collecting nectar, during the day and at dusk. The caterpillars eat plants in the grape family, including Virginia creeper.
Media
Photo of a Question Mark
Species Types
Scientific Name
Polygonia interrogationis
Description
The question mark is named for the shape of the small silver mark on the lower side of the hindwings. It flies in Missouri April to November.
Media
Photo of a red-banded hairstreak
Species Types
Scientific Name
Calycopis cecrops
Description
The red-banded hairstreak has a unique pattern of white, black, and red-orange bands on the underside hindwing. It is most common in the Ozarks.
Media
Photo of an unidentified grass skipper
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 275 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
At first glance, skippers look halfway between butterflies and moths. They are commonly seen darting among the flowers they visit on hot summer days.
See Also
Media
image of Caddisfly on leaf
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 1,500 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Adult caddisflies are mothlike. Their larvae are aquatic and build portable, protective cases out of local materials, including grains of sand, bits of leaves and twigs, and other debris.
Media
Photo of eastern dobsonfly
Species Types
Scientific Name
Corydalus cornutus
Description
Adult eastern dobsonflies are huge and mothlike, with large wings and a weak, fluttery flight. The fiercely predaceous aquatic larvae, called hellgrammites, are well-known to anglers, who often use them as bait.

About Butterflies and Moths in Missouri

Butterflies, skippers, and moths belong to an insect order called the Lepidoptera — the "scale-winged" insects. These living jewels have tiny, overlapping scales that cover their wings like shingles. The scales, whether muted or colorful, seem dusty if they rub off on your fingers. Many butterflies and moths are associated with particular types of food plants, which their caterpillars must eat in order to survive.