Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 22 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 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 an eastern tiger swallowtail resting with wings spread open
Species Types
Scientific Name
Papilio glaucus
Description
The beautiful eastern tiger swallowtail ranges across Missouri and is equally at home in forests or in city landscapes.
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
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
Photo of a Luna Moth
Species Types
Scientific Name
Actias luna
Description
The luna moth’s distinctive lime-green color and long tails distinguish it from all other North American moths.
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.