Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 29 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 a Cabbage White
Species Types
Scientific Name
Pieris rapae
Description
A common butterfly in Missouri, the cabbage white was introduced in the 1800s from Europe and became a crop pest.
Media
Photo of a sod webworm adult moth on a window with hind end propped up
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 860 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Crambid snout moths are named for the mouthparts that project outward like a snout. They are very similar to the closely related family of pyralid moths.
Media
Photo of a falcate orangetip nectaring on a spring beauty flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Anthocharis midea
Description
Falcate orangetip males are unmistakable with their small size, white coloration, and orange wingtips. Look for them in open woodlands in April.
Media
image of a Black-Waved Flannel Moth resting on a leaf
Species Types
Scientific Name
Eleven species in North America north of Mexico
Description
The flannel moths are a small family, and only three species are usually found in Missouri. Adults are stout and very hairy and fluffy looking. Caterpillars have thick hair containing stinging spines.
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
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
image of a Honey Locust Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Syssphinx bicolor (syn. Sphingicampa bicolor)
Description
Honey locust moths are gray in spring and increasingly yellow, tan, or rusty later as the season progresses. The hindwings are typically rose-colored.
Media
Faint-spotted palthis moth resting on part of an aluminum screen door
Species Types
Scientific Name
Subfamily Herminiinae
Description
Litter moths are a subfamily of rather nondescript brownish moths, often with intricate patterns that camouflage them as they rest on tree bark or among leaves on the forest floor.
Media
Photo of a magdalen underwing moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Catocala illecta
Description
The magdalen underwing is one of dozens in its genus found in Missouri. You can tell it from the others by the specific pattern on the brightly colored hindwings, which are usually covered by the dull brown forewings.
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.