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
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
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
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
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.
Media
image of a Dagger Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 2,500 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
One of the largest families of moths, noctuids used to be an even larger group. Many are tan or gray and resemble tree bark. Some are serious crop pests.
Media
image of a Yellow-Fringed Dolichomia Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
More than 680 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
The pyralids are a large and diverse family of mostly small or medium-sized moths. They often look like they have snouts.
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.