Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 17 results
Media
Photo of a Black Swallowtail, Male, Wings Spread
Species Types
Scientific Name
Papilio polyxenes
Description
Most gardeners meet the black swallowtail sooner or later, because parsley, carrot, fennel, and dill are favorite food plants of the caterpillars.
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
image of a Clouded Sulphur on a wildflower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Colias philodice
Description
The clouded sulphur is one of our most common butterflies, flying low over fields and lawns, from late March into December.
Media
photo of a Cloudless Sulphur nectaring on a thistle
Species Types
Scientific Name
Phoebis sennae
Description
The cloudless sulphur is the large, clear-yellow butterfly you see flying rapidly to the southeast in late summer and fall: They’re migrating!
Media
Photo of a common wood-nymph butterfly
Species Types
Scientific Name
Cercyonis pegala
Description
Common wood nymphs vary by region. Some have a yellow area on the forewing containing two eyespots. Others may have the yellow area reduced to a yellow circle around each eyespot.
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 Giant Swallowtail, Wings Spread
Species Types
Scientific Name
Papilio cresphontes
Description
The giant swallowtail is the largest butterfly in our state. In Florida, the caterpillars are a pest in citrus orchards, but here in Missouri, they feed primarily on prickly ash and hop tree, plants provided by nature.
Media
Great Spangled Fritillary, Wings Spread, nectaring on milkweed flowers
Species Types
Scientific Name
Speyeria cybele
Description
The great spangled fritillary is common and easily recognized. This glorious butterfly is often seen in city yards and gardens as it seeks flowers.
Media
Hummingbird clearwing taking nectar from a flower
Species Types
Scientific Name
Hemaris thysbe
Description
The hummingbird clearwing is a common Missouri moth. Like many other sphinx moths, it hovers near flowers, collecting nectar, during the day and at dusk. Look for them April into September.
Media
Imperial moth resting with wings out to sides
Species Types
Scientific Name
Eacles imperialis
Description
The beautiful imperial moth is impossible to confuse with any other species in Missouri: the wings are yellow with spots and speckles of pink, orange, or rusty pale purple. Wingspan can be 5½ inches.
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.