Butterfly Species

  • Cabbage White
  • Clouded Sulfur
  • Meadow Fritillary
  • Milbert's Tortoiseshell
  • Monarch
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Pearl Crescent
  • Painted Lady
  • Red Admiral
  • Spring Azure
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • White Admiral

Cabbage White - peris rapae

Wingspan: 1 1/4-1 7/8". Above: White with charcoal wing tips. Males have one forewing spot, females have two. Below: hindwing and forewing tips are mustard color.

Sometimes mistaken for a moth due to its plain-looking appearance.

Eggs are laid singularly on underside of leaves.



Habitat: Open Meadow

Larval food plants: Cabbage, broccoli, and Basket of Gold (Alyssum saxatile)

Adult food: Butterfly bush

Cabbage White ©Katharina Wittfeld

Clouded Sulphur - Colias philodice

Wingspan: 1 1/2 - 2 3/4". Overall lemon-yellow. Above: black borders on wings-in males black border is solid, in females the border is interspersed with light markings. Below: 1-2 spots (one silver) ringed in red and a row of dark spots along wing border. Female has 2 forms: yellow form with uneven black edging enclosing yellow spots, and a white form, greenish-white rather than yellow. Spring and fall forms are smaller with less conspicuous markings.

Occurs over most of North America. Eggs laid singly on host; They spend winters in the southern region of the United States as adults. Mimics Orange Sulfur.


Young males gather in mud puddles (puddling). Sulphurs glide close to the ground and perch with their wings closed.

The word butterfly may come from the Sulphurs because of their creamy buttery color.

Habitat: Open Meadow and fields. The first migrant to be seen in the spring (May) and the last to leave in the fall (October).

Larval food plants: Clovers (Trifolium), Milkweed (Asclepias)

Adult food: Butterflybush ( Buddleia davidii), Lantana (Lantana camara),
Lupine (Lupinus perinnis)

Clouded Sulfur: ©David Cappaert; Michigan State University

Meadow Fritillary - Boloria Bellona

Wingspan: 1 1/4-1 7/8". Above: orange with black lines, chevrons, and dots. Below: forewing has black markings, hindwing is orange-brown, outer portion has lavender-gray cast; lacks the silver spots of other fritillary butterflies. Front wings appear clipped. Males and females look alike.

Females lay eggs on twigs and plants other than the host violets.
Habitat: Wet meadows and bogs

Larval food plants: Violet leaves

Adult food: Favorite nectar sources are composites, including black-eyed susans, dandelions, and ox-eyed daisy.

Meadow Fritillary ©Paul Lemke

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell - Nymphalis milberti

Wingspan 1 3/4-2:. Above: bright, two-toned, orange and yellow bands borders dark brown areas. Two orange patches on forewings. Below: Mostly dark brown with lighter, wide band. Caterpillar is black above with white dots, yellowish sides, and branched spines.

Female lays up to 900 eggs on the underside of host plant leaves. Often three generations a year. Its numbers in any location vary radically from year to year.

Caterpillars feed together in a web, sometimes defoliating trees. Older caterpillars feed alone and make a shelter of folded leaves tied with silk.

Adults hibernate, sometimes in small groups.


Habitat: In northern range, likes wet areas near woodlands, damp pastures, marshes.

Larval food plants: Nettles

Adult food: Thistles, goldenrods, and lilacs; probably also sap and rotting fruit.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell: ©Ann Judd

Monarch - Danaus plexippus

Wingspan: 3 3/4 - 4”. Above: orange with prominent black veins and borders. Hindwings of male have a black scent patch. Head and body are black with white spots. Below; same as above, but slightly paler. Caterpillar is 2 ¾” long, black with white and yellow bands. Has a pair of flexible filaments on its thorax and next-to-last abdominal segment. Fully grown caterpillar changes to a barrel-shaped, leaf green chrysalis studded with gold dots; developing butterfly can be seen inside. Change from egg to butterfly takes four weeks; has many generations a year.

In Canada the Monarch is called "King Billy" because of its orange and black colors which are those of King William of Orange.

On the east coast, adults migrate 2,000 miles from Canada to Mexico to overwinter.


Habitat: Open areas, meadows, fields, marshes, roadsides.

Larval food plants: Milkweed.

Adult food: Flower nectar of various species of milkweed and composites such as Joe-Pye weed, aster, thistle, ironweed, cosmos, goldenrod. Also mallow, lantana, buttonbush, dogbane, lilac and various species of mint.

Monarch's mating. Photo: ©Jeridu

Mourning Cloak - Nymphalis antiopa

Wingspan: 2 7/8-3 3/8". Above: deep maroon with marginal row of violet-blue marks and yellow borders. Below: dark gray.

A long-lived butterfly (about 11 months).

Aggressive butterfly. Usually seen alone.

Eggs are laid in clusters. Overwinters as an adult.

Once people thought the larval stage was meat eating, poisonous, and ferocious because it had spines and was very large.


Habitat: Woods, openings, parks, and suburbs, especially along river banks and streams.

Larval food plants: Willow, elm, poplar, aspen, cottonwood, birch and hackberry. Older caterpillars wander about and may be found on plants that they do not eat.

Adult food: Tree sap, especially of oaks. They walk down the trunk to the sap and feed head downward. Also rotting fruit, and only occasionally flower nectar.

Mourning Cloak: ©Charles Shapiro

Pearl Crescent - Phyciodes tharos

Wingspan: 1-1 1/2". One of the most abundant Eastern butterflies. Small, but bold and territorial. Above: orange with black borders, scattered markings. Below: hindwing is yellow with brownish wavy lines; dark patch with crescent.

Dark spiny caterpillar with yellow dots and bands.

Larvae feed together.


Habitat: Commonly found along roadsides, woodlands, meadows, and gardens.

Larval food plants: Asters

Adult food: Dogbane, Asters, Black-eyed susans, Thistle, Coreopsis, Zinnias.

Pearl Crescent ©Steve Byland

Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui

Wingspan: 2-2 1/4". Above: orange with black markings; forewings have black tip with white spots; hindwings have small black or black-rimmed spots near border. Below: Forewing with large pink areas. Hindwing with row of small black eyespots near border.

Often called Thistle Butterfly because they prefer thistles as a nectaring source.

Also called Cosmopolite, referring to its worldwide distribution. It is found everywhere except Antarctica.


Habitat: Open and bright fields, flowery meadows as well as marshes, dunes, and thorn scrubs.

Larval food plants: Thistles and daisies

Adult food: Thistles

Painted Lady: ©Ann Judd

Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta

Wingspan: 1 3/4-2 1/4". Above; black with orange-red bar across middle of forewing and hindwing border. Below: black and brown marbling with pink bar on forewing. Usually unable to overwinter in Maine; repopulates each spring by immigrants from more southern areas.

Territorial behavior; may be found in same place for several days or weeks. Opens its wings while resting or feeding.

Habitat: Moist woods, yards, parks, marshes, moist fields, and streams banks.

Larval food plants: Members of the nettle family, pincushion flower, tree sap.

Adult food: Sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, bird droppings. When these are not available, they will use nectar from flowers such as common milkweed, red clover, aster, and goldenrod.

Red Admiral: ©Ann Judd

Spring Azure - Celastrina ladon

Wingspan: 3/4-1". Delicate small butterfly. Holds wings tightly together over back. Above: Male's wings pale sky-blue above with checkered fringe; Below: brownish gray with small dark dots on spring generation; later generations are paler with very small dots. Female's forewings have dark black-gray front and outer margins and blue area fades to almost white.; hind wings have pale bluish gray with marginal row of dark spots. Caterpillar is sluglike and varies in color. Caterpillar exudes a honeydew that attracts ants.



Overwinters as a chrysalis. One of the earliest butterflies to emerge, sometimes appearing when snow is still on the ground. Two or more generations a year.

Habitat: Open woodlands, old fields, roadsides, wooded freshwater marshes, forest edges, suburbs and towns.

Larval food plants: A variety of woody shrubs and occasionally herbs including dogwood, New Jersey tea, meadowsweet, viburnum, blueberry, cherry, sumac.

Adult food: Flower nectar from dogbane, privet, New Jersey tea, blackberry, common

milkweed, blackberry, dandelion, violet, cherry, cotoneaster, rock cress, winter cress and many others.

Spring Azure: ©Ann Judd

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio glaucus

Wingspan: 3 1/8-5 1/2". Overall yellow with black strips and distinctive "tail" on each wing. Above: shows black border. Hindwing with some bluish iridescence and orange eyespots. Below: row of separate yellow markings on outside edge of forewing; most markings on hindwing border are orange. Dark female form occurs in some areas. Overwinters as a chrysalis.

Flight pattern is swooping and gliding.

Moves its wings while feeding to keep its balance.


Habitat: Deciduous broadleaf woods, forest edges, river valleys, parks and suburbs.

Larval food plants: A variety of plants, including wild cherry, basswood, birch, ash, mountain ash, and willow.

Adult food: Flower nectar from a variety of plants such as wild cherry and lilac.

Eastern Swallowtail: ©Ann Judd

White Admiral - Limenitis arthemis

Wingspan: 2 7/8-3 1/8". Above: black with white band across both wings. Below: dark brown with white bands and row of brick-red spots. Overwinters as a young caterpillar in a rolled-up leaf secured to a twig by silk.

The White Admiral will often hybridize with Red-spotted Purple butterfly.

Habitat: Open woodlands, forest edges, and roadsides.


Larval food plants: Birch, aspen, poplar, willow, hawthorn, basswood, amelanchier.

Adult food: Rotting fruit, sap, dung, carrion, aphid honeydew, and nectar from various flowers.

White Admiral ©Sue Robinson