Field Guide

Butterflies and Moths

Showing 1 - 10 of 12 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
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
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
Image of a monarch
Species Types
Scientific Name
Danaus plexippus
Description
Monarchs are well-known butterflies distinguished by their relatively large size, rusty or orange wings with black veins, and black bodies. The larvae usually are found on milkweeds.
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
Photo of a Pipevine Swallowtail, Wings Spread
Species Types
Scientific Name
Battus philenor
Description
The pipevine swallowtail is ignored by most predators because of its acrid body juices. Several other butterflies benefit by looking strikingly similar.
Media
Photo of a Red-Spotted Purple with wings closed, showing ventral side of wings
Species Types
Scientific Name
Limenitis arthemis
Description
The red-spotted purple is a stunning butterfly, even though the spots are really orange, not red, and blue is more prominent than the subtle violet hues.
Media
Photo of a regal fritillary, perched on a flower, wings folded
Species Types
Scientific Name
Speyeria idalia
Description
The regal fritillary is a large, silver-spotted, orange and blackish-gray butterfly of our native tallgrass prairies. Because of its dwindling habitat and steeply declining numbers, it is a species of conservation concern in Missouri and nationally.
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.