Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 10 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
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
Photo of a giant leopard moth resting on a weathered wooden board
Species Types
Scientific Name
Hypercompe scribonia (syn. Ecpantheria scribonia)
Description
The giant leopard moth is a beautiful large white moth. The forewings have numerous black spots, many with hollow centers. Some of the dark markings are iridescent blue in the light.
Media
Polyphemus Moth, Belton MO
Species Types
Scientific Name
About 75 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Missouri has 16 species of saturniid, or giant silkworm moths. Many of them are spectacular, including the cecropia, luna, buck, io, imperial, polyphemus, rosy maple, spiny oakworm, and royal moths.
Media
Photo of a gray copper butterfly nectaring on butterfly weed flowers
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lycaena dione (formerly Gaeides xanthoides dione)
Description
The gray copper is locally common in the western half of Missouri, where it flies in June and July. Look for it in moist, grassy, open areas during those months.
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
Two spring azure butterflies resting and drinking moisture from a wet rock
Species Types
Scientific Name
Celastrina ladon
Description
The spring azure is among the first butterflies of the year. It occurs in a variety of habitats. The early spring appearance helps you identify it.
Media
Photo of a Summer Azure
Species Types
Scientific Name
Celastrina neglecta
Description
Formerly considered the same species as the spring azure, the summer azure can be identified, in large part, by the season when you see it.
Media
Adult salt marsh moth resting on a vertical plant stem
Species Types
Scientific Name
Subfamily Arctiinae (formerly a family)
Description
Tiger and lichen moths, and their close relatives, often have bold patterns of black or white, plus yellow, orange, or red. Arctiid caterpillars are usually hairy, and some have stinging hairs.
Media
Photo of a Zebra Swallowtail
Species Types
Scientific Name
Eurytides marcellus
Description
Zebra swallowtails are unmistakable with their black and white stripes and long tails. Look for this species fluttering around in Missouri’s forests.
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.