Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 12 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
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 Luna Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Actias luna
Description
The luna moth’s distinctive lime-green color and long tails distinguish it from all other North American moths.
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
Olive hairstreak taking nectar at a chickweed flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Callophrys gryneus gryneus (syn. Mitoura gryneus gryneus)
Description
The only green butterfly in Missouri, the olive (or juniper) hairstreak never strays far from eastern red cedar, its larval food plant. Adults fly between April and August.
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-Fringed Emerald
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nemoria bistriaria
Description
The red-fringed emerald has two color forms depending on the season. Adults that emerge in summer are green, but those that emerge in spring are tan.
Media
Photo of a monkey slug caterpillar on an oak leaf
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 20 species in Missouri
Description
Adult slug caterpillar moths are heavy-bodied and furry. The weird-looking caterpillars have suckers instead of prolegs, so they glide around like slugs. Don’t touch — many have stinging spines or hairs.
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.