Identifying butterflies can be tricky. Butterflies have different colored wings with unique markings and their wings are of different shapes and sizes. When you see a butterfly you don’t recognize, make a mental note of the characteristics of its wings and where you saw it. Better yet, take a photo for future reference.
Already know the name of the butterfly? Select the butterfly’s name from the dropdown list below. You’ll see photos of the adult butterfly, eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis, flight range map, and plants needed to survive.
To learn more about butterfly families scroll to the bottom of this page.
6 Tips for Identifying Butterfly
Observe the following:
- Which side of the butterfly are you observing? The upperside (wings are spread open) is the dorsal side and when the wings are closed, it’s called the ventral side.
- Is the butterfly small, medium, or large?
- What is the shape of the butterfly wings? See the wing shapes below.
- What is the main color of the butterfly wings?
- Do the butterfly wings have unique markings – lines, eyespots, dots, color patterns?
- Is the butterfly laying eggs on its host plant? Or sipping nectar from flowers?
Now that you have read through the six tips, you can now search by butterfly wing shapes, colors, and sizes below.
Identify Butterflies by Common Names
Do you know the butterfly’s name? Great! Select its name from the dropdown list to see more photos and information about the butterfly including the plants they need to survive.
ID Guide for Butterfly Wing Shapes
Even though all butterflies fly as adults, wing shapes and sizes between species vary. From the jet-like wings of skippers to the large graceful wings of swallowtails, butterfly wings are unique. Use the butterfly shapes below as a guide to identify the butterflies you see.
Types of Butterflies by Color
Butterfly wings are made of tiny overlapping scales, which is how the butterfly gets its colors and patterns. It is common for butterfly species to look different when their wings are open vs. closed and a male butterfly could be completely different from a female.
Steps to Identify Butterflies by Color
- Are you viewing the butterfly with its wings open or closed?
- What is the primary color of the butterfly wings?
- Choose a butterfly image below for a side-by-side photo comparison.
ID Butterfly Open Wing Colors (Upper Side)
ID Butterfly Closed Wing Colors (Side View)
Are you viewing the butterfly when its wings are closed? If so, select the butterfly’s primary color to see additional butterfly photos.
Identify Butterflies by Size (Wingspan)
A quick butterfly identification guide to identifying butterflies by size. Click the butterfly wingspan links below to see butterfly photos and additional information.
Types of Butterfly Families
There are over 700 species of butterflies in North America which are grouped into six butterfly families. Discover which butterflies are included in each family by clicking the family name below.