Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 22 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
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 Cecropia moth.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Hyalophora cecropia
Description
The cecropia moth looks a lot like butterfly ― but note its feathery antennae and stout, hairy body. This is the largest moth native to North America.
Media
Photo of a Polyphemus Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Antheraea polyphemus
Description
The polyphemus is the second-largest Missouri moth. It was named after Homer's giant one-eyed monster in The Odyssey because of the big eyespot on each hindwing.
Media
Photo of a red admiral butterfly, wings spread.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Vanessa atalanta
Description
Red admirals dart through Missouri woods, gardens, and open areas from March through November. They are easily recognized by their black, red, and white pattern.
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
Photo of a Painted Lichen Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Hypoprepia fucosa
Description
An attractive moth associated with woodlands, the painted lichen moth has a distinctive pattern of gray stripes on the forewings.
Media
Photo of a Banded Tiger Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Apantesis vittata
Description
The striking pattern on the banded tiger moth tells predators that these insects are inedible. But what serves as a “warning label” to birds is attractive to us!
Media
Photo of a Black-and-Yellow Lichen Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Lycomorpha pholus
Description
The black-and-yellow lichen moth is aptly named. “Lichen” refers to the caterpillars’ food as well as to their camouflage.
Media
Underwing moth Catocala species resting on a brick wall
Species Types
Scientific Name
Catocala spp., more than 100 species in North America north of Mexico
Description
Dozens of species of underwing moths (genus Catocala) live in Missouri. They have drab tan forewings that usually conceal bright orange, red, yellow, or pink hindwings with contrasting bold dark patterns.
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.