Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 15 results
Media
Photo of a Black Swallowtail, Male, Wings Spread
Species Types
Scientific Name
Papilio polyxenes
Description
Most gardeners meet the black swallowtail sooner or later, because parsley, carrot, fennel, and dill are favorite food plants of the caterpillars.
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 male Io Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Automeris io
Description
The wings of male Io moths are usually yellow; those of females are reddish brown. When prodded, this moth parts its forewings to reveal hindwings with huge eyespots.
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
Photo of a Pipevine Swallowtail, Wings Spread
Species Types
Scientific Name
Battus philenor
Description
The pipevine swallowtail is ignored by most predators because of its acrid body juices. Several other butterflies benefit by looking strikingly similar.
Media
Photo of a Red-Spotted Purple with wings closed, showing ventral side of wings
Species Types
Scientific Name
Limenitis arthemis
Description
The red-spotted purple is a stunning butterfly, even though the spots are really orange, not red, and blue is more prominent than the subtle violet hues.
Media
A white-lined sphinx moth sips nectar from a purple locoweed flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 50 species in Missouri
Description
Sphinx moths are usually large and heavy bodied, with a long, pointed abdomen. Members of this family often hover near flowers, feeding on nectar and looking like hummingbirds or bumblebees.
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.