Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 17 results
Media
American snout butterfly resting with wings folded
Species Types
Scientific Name
Libytheana carinent
Description
Most of us identify butterflies by their color patterns, but you can ID the American snout by its long “nose.”
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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
Photo of an eastern comma butterfly, wings spread, showing dorsal side of wings
Species Types
Scientific Name
Polygonia comma
Description
The eastern comma is named for a small white mark on the underside of the hindwing. It flies spring through fall, and even in winter, on warm, sunny days.
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
Goatweed leafwing perched on a tree trunk with wings closed
Species Types
Scientific Name
Anaea andria
Description
As it rests with wings closed, the goatweed leafwing mimics a dry, dead leaf. But when it flutters around, it flashes bright rusty orange on the top side of its wings.
Media
Gray comma perched on a flower, winged closed
Species Types
Scientific Name
Polygonia progne
Description
The gray comma is easy to ID if you can see the underside: it is charcoal gray with many fine dark streaks, and its comma marking is L-shaped and narrows to a fine point at each end.
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
Photo of a mourning cloak butterfly perched on a strand of barbed wire.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Nymphalis antiopa
Description
The unmistakable mourning cloak is a familiar woodland butterfly in Missouri. Adults hibernate and are sometimes seen flying on warm, sunny days in winter.
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
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.
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.