Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 48 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.
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Baltimore checkerspot, perched, with wings folded
Species Types
Scientific Name
Euphydryas phaeton
Description
The Baltimore checkerspot is unforgettable. In Missouri it is locally abundant in the eastern Ozarks, but rare elsewhere.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.