Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 21 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
Image of a gypsy moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lymantria dispar
Description
The gypsy moth, introduced to our continent from Europe, has caused millions of dollars in damages to forests. Help protect our forests by learning how to recognize the gypsy moth reporting any occurrences you find.
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
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.
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 mourning cloak butterfly perched on a strand of barbed wire.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nymphalis antiopa
Description
The unmistakable mourning cloak is a familiar woodland butterfly in Missouri. Adults hibernate and are sometimes seen flying on warm, sunny days in winter.
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.
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.