Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 18 results
Media
Photo of an American lady butterfly, wings folded.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Vanessa virginiensis
Description
The American lady resembles the closely related painted lady butterfly. It has two large spots on the hindwing underside, however.
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
Common buckeye butterfly nectaring on a flower, wings spread
Species Types
Scientific Name
Junonia coenia
Description
The common buckeye is one of Missouri’s prettiest butterflies, but it doesn’t overwinter here. Instead, migrants arrive in late spring and early summer.
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
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
Photo of a Hackberry Emperor
Species Types
Scientific Name
Asterocampa celtis
Description
The hackberry emperor eats hackberry leaves as a caterpillar. The adults fly erratically. They often alight on people to absorb sodium from sweat.
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.
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
Little wood satyr resting with wings closed
Species Types
Scientific Name
Megisto cymela
Description
The little wood satyr is an abundant butterfly found in Missouri’s open woodlands and brushy fields. Its bouncing flight has been called “skipping.”
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.