30 Butterfly Species in Alabama

If you’re intrigued by butterflies, Alabama boasts 30 unique species you’ll love to discover.

In this guide, you’ll explore the fascinating details of these fluttering beauties inhabiting the Heart of Dixie.

Dive in to unveil their stunning features, vibrant colors, distinctive patterns, and the roles they play in Alabama’s diverse ecosystem.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarchs, scientifically known as Danaus plexippus, are fascinating creatures.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Here are some of their distinctive attributes:

  • Habitat: Monarchs are known to dwell in open fields, meadows, and particularly in milkweed patches. They also inhabit gardens where milkweed is cultivated.
  • Appearance: They are easily recognized by their black, orange, and white patterned wings.
  • Size: Monarchs can reach a wingspan of 3.7-4.1 inches (9-10 cm), making them quite large in size.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, Monarchs feed on milkweed. The adult butterflies sip on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay small, spherical eggs beneath milkweed leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from 2 to 6 weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed plants are the primary host for Monarch caterpillars, providing both a food source and a safe site for egg-laying.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The painted lady, scientifically named Vanessa Cardui is a sight to behold. It’s one colorful visitor that Alabama welcomes during migration season.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives over 5 continents and can be spotted in every habitat from desert to mountain tops.
  • Appearance: They showcase an intricate design of orange, black, and white on their wings, with eye-shaped markings on the underwings.
  • Size: Adult butterflies boast a wingspan around 5.1-7.6 cm (2-3 inches), fairly large compared to other species.
  • Diet: Adults attain nutrients from nectar of various flowers, while caterpillars prefer weedy plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay greenish-yellow eggs on host plants. They hatch into spiny, black larvae after just a few days.
  • Lifespan: Adult painted ladies live for about 2 weeks, with a complete lifecycle taking about a month.
  • Host Plants: Some of their favorite host plants include thistles, hollyhock, and mallow.

It’s a joy witnessing them flitter across the Alabama landscapes, adding a dash of vivid color and vibrancy to the horizon.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

This distinct butterfly species graces the Alabama scene with a remarkable display.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Zebra Swallowtail prefers open meadows, moist woodlands, and near rivers or streams.
  • Appearance: Its elongated tail and black and white stripes earn it the ‘Zebra’ name. The red and blue spots add to its charm.
  • Size: Medium-sized, with a wingspan of 2.4–4 inches (6.1–10.1 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Zebra Swallowtails mostly feed on nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Zebra Swallowtails lay their eggs singly on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: In their adult stage, they commonly live for 6 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae particularly rely on pawpaw (Asimina triloba) for nourishment. The Zebra Swallowtail is a butterfly you can’t ignore, with its flamboyant tails, distinctive pattern, and flashy flight behavior – no wonder it’s designated as the official butterfly of Tennessee, a state neighboring Alabama.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Looking for a small and charming butterfly? Then, the Eastern Tailed-Blue is for you. Native to Alabama, these butterflies can be found across a range of habitats and provide a delightful sight for all.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer open areas like parks and roadsides, but can be seen near woodlands too.
  • Appearance: The males are a stunning light blue, while females are blue-brown. Both have a small tail.
  • Size: They are petite, with a wingspan of 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on the nectar of flowers, while larvae consume legume species.
  • Reproduction: Females can lay several clusters of eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average adult life is a short, sweet 7-10 days.
  • Host Plants: The favored ones include various species of trefoils, clover, and peas.

What a treat it is to find this beauty during a summer stroll!

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is an elegant addition to the Alabama butterfly population.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s key information:

  • Habitat: Typically found in forests, wooded areas, and near bodies of water.
  • Appearance: Characterized by its black wings adorned with pale green or blue iridescent spots.
  • Size: Ranges from 3 to 4 inches (75-100mm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on spicebush leaves. Adults prefer nectar from flowers like honeysuckle and purple coneflower.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical, green eggs on host plants. Caterpillars form a chrysalis and emerge as butterflies.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies live up to two weeks. The entire lifecycle from egg to butterfly spans about one month.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed predominately on spicebush and sassafras trees. Enjoy watching them flit around while hiking or lounging in your backyard. A sight for the sore eyes of any nature lover!

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

If you’ve ever taken a walk in Alabama during the summer season, you’ve likely come across the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele).

This butterfly species is a usual sight in the lush landscapes of Alabama.

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: They typically live in moist locales like meadows, fields, open woods, and near streams.
  • Appearance: Displaying a characteristic orange-brown color with black markings, and the underside highlighted with silver spots, they’re true to their name.
  • Size: A typical Great Spangled Fritillary measures 2.5-4 inches (6.35-10.16 cm).
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, they feed on violet leaves. The mature butterflies predominantly feast on nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay their eggs singly on violet leaves, which the caterpillars consume after hatching.
  • Lifespan: An average lifespan is about one year, with adults living for approximately 3-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The Speyeria cybele’s main host plants are violets (Viola species).

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Gray Hairstreak is an easily identifiable butterfly species, prevalent across Alabama. Its captivating traits make it stand out in the bustling butterfly world.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically found in open, sunny regions with abundant vegetation. Meadows and gardens often serve as suitable environments.
  • Appearance: Exhibits glistening gray wings with red and blue spots near the tail. These spots are, however, on the underside of their hind wings.
  • Size: Has an average wingspan from 1 to 1.3 inches (2.5 to 3.3 cm), making it a relatively small species.
  • Diet: Primarily feeds on the nectar of various flowers, with a preference for those of the Fabaceae family.
  • Reproduction: Lays her eggs on the host plants. The lavender-colored caterpillars then feed on the flowers and fruits of these plants.
  • Lifespan: Typically lives for a year, undergoing multiple generations during this period.
  • Host Plants: Prefers a wide range of host plants, most commonly beans, clovers, and mallow.

You will surely enjoy spotting this butterfly in your garden! Its diverse diet and host plant preferences make it a fascinating creature to observe.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple, scientifically known as Limenitis arthemis, is a vibrant North American butterfly that is common to Alabama.

Its striking coloration makes it both distinct and easy to identify.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: This species commonly thrives in deciduous woodlands, parks, and suburbs.
  • Appearance: It possesses a brilliant blue sheen, adorned with characteristic red, white, and black spots on the upperside of its wings. Its underside is a more muted and patterned mix of browns and reds.
  • Size: With wingspans stretching from 2.5 to 4 inches (approximately 6.4 to 10.2 cm), these are effortlessly visible in their environments.
  • Diet: Adult Red-spotted Purples are sap-suckers. They feed off tree sap, rotting fruit, carrion, and even dung.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves, and the caterpillars are solitary feeders.
  • Lifespan: Its lifespan extends from spring to autumn—all in a year.
  • Host Plants: The willow, poplar, and black cherry are the Red-spotted Purple’s preferred host plants where females deposit their eggs.

This awe-inspiring creature is a testament to nature’s artistic flair.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

This impressive creature, known as the Mourning Cloak, is one of the fascinating butterfly species living in Alabama. It dwells in a variety of climates and environments.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: Predominantly residing in hardwood forests, they also adapt to city parks and suburban areas.
  • Appearance: The species boasts a deep maroon color with a striking yellow margin bordering wings. A row of iridescent blue spots adds beauty to this vibrant combination.
  • Size: It spans about 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) to 4 inches (10.16 cm) wingtip to wingtip.
  • Diet: Unlike most butterflies, Mourning Cloaks have a preference for tree sap, fruit juices, and rotten fruits. This trait allows them to thrive in extreme conditions.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of round, greenish eggs on host plants. Larvae emerge within two weeks in a communal web.
  • Lifespan: It has an unusually long lifespan with individuals living up to 10 to 11 months.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include willow, elm, and poplar trees. They play a significant role in the survival of this species.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur, scientifically known as Colias eurytheme, is a common sight in Alabama.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

Here’s what you need to know about this tiny but vibrant butterfly:

  • Habitat: It thrives in open areas like fields, gardens, meadows, and roadsides. It can also be spotted near crops, such as alfalfa and clover.
  • Appearance: The males possess brilliant orange wings with broad black borders, while the females carry more varied color patterns.
  • Size: Its wingspan typically ranges from 1.3 to 2.2 inches (3.3 to 5.6 cm).
  • Diet: Adults enjoy nectar from a variety of flowers including milkweeds, asters, and goldenrods.
  • Reproduction: Females lay singular, pale green-colored eggs on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: The Orange Sulphur can complete multiple generations in a year, with each generation living several weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their caterpillars prefer to feed on legumes, especially alfalfa, clover, and peas.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The Great Purple Hairstreak is a fascinating creature. Also known as ‘Atlides halesus’, it’s an alluring species you might stumble upon in Alabama.

Great purple hairstreak

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in woody areas, parks, and neighborhoods.
  • Appearance: A dazzling sight with its metallic blue body and red spots. The wings display an eye-catching black and white pattern.
  • Size: It boasts a modest wingspan of about 1.5-2 inches (3.8-5 cm).
  • Diet: The adults feed on flower nectar, while the caterpillars enjoy feeding on mistletoes.
  • Reproduction: The females lay greenish-white eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Despite being fragile-looking, they can live for several weeks.
  • Host Plants: Mistletoe serves as their primary host plant.

Imagine happening upon one during a leisurely afternoon stroll. With its striking colors, you surely won’t miss this beautiful creature flitting amongst the flowers.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is one of the most notable and largest skippers with unique wing markings.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: They are widely distributed across Alabama and usually found in open fields and gardens.
  • Appearance: The upper side of their wings is dark brown, with a noticeable silvery-white spot on the hind wings.
  • Size: The typical wingspan range is from 1.6 – 2.5 inches (4 – 6.3 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adult Silver-spotted Skippers feed on nectar from flowers, preferring purple or pink blooms.
  • Reproduction: Female lays single eggs on host plants. The caterpillars live in a folded leaf shelter.
  • Lifespan: The adult lifespan is about one month in the summer. However, only one generation occurs in the north while multiple in the south.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants are in the pea family, especially legumes.

Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)

The Eastern Pine Elfin is a fascinating butterfly species that you’ll encounter in Alabama.

113/366 Eastern Pine Elfin - Callophrys niphon, Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, Aden, Virginia

  • Habitat: These butterflies, given their name, naturally find their homes in pine forests.
  • Appearance: They have a distinctive underside with an attractive pattern of brown and white. Sometimes, there’s a metallic blue overlay that adds to their allure.
  • Size: Adult Eastern Pine Elfins are usually about an inch (2.54 cm) in wingspan, making them compact and delicate.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they munch on pine needles. Mature butterflies enjoy tree sap, rotting fruit, and even dung.
  • Reproduction: Eastern Pine Elfin begins breeding in the spring when males patrol for receptive females.
  • Lifespan: These butterflies usually have a lifespan of about one year, overwintering as caterpillars in silk-wrapped leaves.
  • Host Plants: They rely specifically on several species of pines including Pitch Pine and Jack Pine as their host plants.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail, scientifically known as Papilio polyxenes, is one compelling butterfly species you’ll find in Alabama.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s an overview of this specimen:

  • Habitat: Found in a variety of environments, from sunny meadows to suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: Sports a stunning contrast of black wings with yellowish-orange spots and an eye-catching blue band near the tail.
  • Size: Has a medium-large butterfly size with a wingspan of about 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Black Swallowtails consume nectar from a variety of flowers with long, slender tubes, like the milkweed and thistle.
  • Reproduction: Females lay round, creamy white eggs that then hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: They live around a month during summer, while overwintering adults may live up to 10 months.
  • Host Plants: Select plants in the carrot family are home to the Black Swallowtail caterpillars, such as Queen Anne’s lace and parsley. This butterfly species is not just a visual treat, but also vastly contributes to the local ecosystem.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Also known as the buckeye butterfly, the Common Buckeye is an eye-catching sight. They are prevalent in Alabama and predominantly found in open, sunny areas with low vegetation.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: Open, sunny areas including meadows, parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Brown wings with eye-like spots in orange and white. Distinctive pattern on wings with a combination of orange, cream, and brown.
  • Size: Wingspan reaches 2-2.8 inches or approximately 5-7 cm.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as knapweed and aster.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on host plants. Caterpillars feed voraciously on leaves upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adult Buckeye butterflies live about a week in the wild, while the entire life cycle can span 3-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Various plant species including Plantago (Plantains), Antirrhinum (Snapdragons), and Verbena. The caterpillars feed on these and other plant leaves.

This species is a common sight for butterfly enthusiasts and a stunning addition to Alabama’s diverse wildlife.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one spectacular butterfly species you can spot in Alabama.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: It frequents in a wide variety of environments, including gardens, forests, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: As an adult, this butterfly displays striking yellow wings with black tiger-like stripes. The bottom edges of the wings have a series of blue hence the name.
  • Size: Adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtails range from 3 to 5.5 inches (7.6 to 14 cm) wingtip to wingtip.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies are fond of sipping nectar from a variety of flowers while the caterpillar feeds on the leaves of various trees and shrubs.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies have a lifespan of about one month.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars prefer trees such as cottonwoods, willows, and black cherry.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a unique butterfly worth noting. This butterfly is widespread across various parts of Alabama, offering delightful scenes of rich color.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: They love woodland areas and field borders.
  • Appearance: Known for their iridescent blue hindwings and black forewings. A major distinction is the single row of orange spots on their underwings.
  • Size: Spanning about 2.8-5 inches or 7-12.7 centimeters in length.
  • Diet: Adult Pipevines depend on nectar, while larvae consume the pipevine plant, their namesake.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny, red eggs on host plants for the caterpillars to feed on post-hatching.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle ranges from 2 weeks (as butterflies) to nearly a year, including the caterpillar and pupa stages.
  • Host Plants: Prefers Dutchman’s pipe family of plants, hence the name ‘Pipevine.’

Observing these butterflies is truly a pleasure, such are their unique attributes.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Imagine seeing a monarch butterfly, and then spotting the almost identical viceroy. The viceroy is an ingenious mimic of the monarch, all to deter would-be predators.

However, upon closer inspection, you may distinguish the viceroy by the black line crossing its hind wings.

Viceroy butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find Viceroys in marshes, wet meadows, and around ponds or lakes. They thrive well where their favorite willows, aspens, and cottonwoods are abundant.
  • Appearance: Its distribution of black and orange colors closely resemble the Monarch’s. However, they’re distinguished by an extra black line on their hind wings.
  • Size: Unlike the larger monarch, your viceroy measures around 2.5-3.0 inches (6.4-7.6 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Larvae primarily feed on leaves, whereas adults usually hover around flowers imbibing nectar.
  • Reproduction: During late spring, viceroys lay eggs on the tips of their host plants’ leaves.
  • Lifespan: These fascinating creatures can live up to 14 days, maximizing their short lives for feeding, breeding, and laying eggs.
  • Host Plants: Willow, cottonwood, and aspen trees host Viceroy larvae feeding on their leaves.

Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

The Sleepy Orange is another butterfly species native to Alabama. Its unique characteristics are fascinating.

Sleepy Orange butterfly

  • Habitat: Sleepy Oranges prefer open, sunny areas. They’re often found in gardens, fields, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: They are bright with cheerful orange wings and dark black margins. The underside of the hindwings has a unique spot-color pattern.
  • Size: An adult is typically around 1.8-2.4 inches (4.6-6 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on nectar from various flowers. You might see them on asters, goldenrods, or other plants.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay their eggs singly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: While their exact lifespan varies, on average, they live about two weeks as adults.
  • Host Plants: Various wild and domestic senna species serve as hosts for their larvae.

These butterflies bring a burst of color to the Alabama landscape. Don’t you just adore them?

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

You possibly encounter the American Lady butterfly while strolling in open fields, meadows, or roadsides in Alabama.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is quite adaptable, thriving in diverse habitats like meadows, fields, and roadsides. Also found in gardens and open spaces.
  • Appearance: Sporting a reddish-orange and black pattern on the upper side of their wings, American Ladies are striking. Their lower wings have small eye-like patterns with two large eye spots.
  • Size: Not too large, not too small, they have a wingspan of 2-2.75 inches (5-7 centimeters).
  • Diet: These creatures feed on flower nectar, especially favorites like aster, goldenrod, and marigold.
  • Reproduction: Once bred, these butterflies lay their green, barrel-shaped eggs on the upper part of the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of an American Lady is about 2 weeks in the wild after reaching the adult butterfly stage.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars prefer cudweed, plantain and pearly everlastings. Learning about the American Lady butterfly surely makes our day more fascinating.

Southern Dogface (Colias cesonia)

This beautiful butterfly species, the Southern Dogface, is one you should watch out for when you explore the outdoors in Alabama.

Southern Dogface butterfly

  • Habitat: Predominantly, Southern Dogface butterflies are found in open, sunny areas such as meadows and fields, where host plants are abundant.
  • Appearance: These butterflies are lightly colored and display a distinct patterning on their wings which resembles a dog’s face, hence the name.
  • Size: On average, the wingspan of Southern Dogfaces can range from 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm).
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on flower nectar while the larvae munch on host plants.
  • Reproduction: During breeding season, females lay single green eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Though brief, Southern Dogfaces live vibrant lives, surviving only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on plants from the pea family, with clover being a popular choice.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a distinct butterfly species native to Alabama.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Predominantly found in wooded areas and around Hackberry trees, their host plant. They’re seen fluttering close to the ground, often landing on people.
  • Appearance: A rich tawny color with two dark, circular eyespots on each forewing, and a single eyespot on each hindwing.
  • Size: A medium-sized butterfly that has a wingspan between 1.5 to 2.5 inches (3.8 to 6.3 cm).
  • Diet: They feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, and dung for nutrition. Uniquely, they do not typically feed on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay greenish-white eggs on leaves of the host plant. The hatched larvae are spiky, with white and yellowish-brown bands.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a lifespan of about two weeks during summer.
  • Host Plants: For larvae, Hackberry Trees (Celtis species) are essential for growth and development.

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Let’s unveil the secret life of the Long-tailed Skipper. Native to Alabama, it has certain characteristics that make it one-of-a-kind.

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

  • Habitat: It thrives in open, sunny areas, in places like gardens and fields.
  • Appearance: As the name suggests, it sports long, pointed tails at the ends of its hind-wing.
  • Size: The skipper spans around 1.75 to 2.25 inches (approx 4.4 to 5.7 cm) in width.
  • Diet: You’ll often spot them on flowers, sipping nectar.
  • Reproduction: Every year, females lay around 100-200 eggs on the underside of leaves.
  • Lifespan: Life is short and intense and they live for around 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: They fancy legumes like beans and peas for their larvae development.

Despite being beautifully common, each visit from this tiny visitor brings a spark of excitement. It adds a fluttering flash of joy to Alabama’s environment.

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

The Zebra Heliconian, vibrant and elegant, definitely stands out among its peers. Native to Alabama, this butterfly is something to behold.

zebra longwing butterfly

  • Habitat: It prefers open spaces with flowers to nectar.
  • Appearance: It holds striking black and white stripes justifying its name.
  • Size: Its wingspan ranges from 3.5 to 4 inches (about 9 – 10 cm), a decent size in the butterfly world.
  • Diet: Zebras are fond of pollen and this differentiates it from other butterflies who generally intake nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: Zebras have an unusually long lifespan in the butterfly family, living up to 6 months.
  • Host Plants: Primarily, it relies on Passion Vines (Passiflora species) for feeding its caterpillars.

Stunning in its appearance, the Zebra Heliconian is surely a delightful encounter for any butterfly enthusiast.

Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus)

The Common Sootywing, scientifically known as Pholisora catullus, is a petite marvel that inhabits Alabama.

common sootywing (Pholisora catullus) on smooth oxeye at Clear Creek fen IA 653A1604

Here’s what you need to know about this butterfly species:

  • Habitat: Open areas with sparse vegetation and weedy locations are usually the habitat of this species. Look in places like abandoned fields or road sides.
  • Appearance: Mostly dark gray or black with tiny white specks scattered across the wings. It stands out against vivid floral backdrops.
  • Size: Quite small, with a wingspan ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adult Sootywing primarily consumes flower nectar as part of its diet.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs singly on leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Common Sootywings typically live for about a month. However, they can produce multiple generations per year.
  • Host Plants: Armoracia rusticana and Sisymbrium altissimum, also known as horseradish and tall hedge mustard, serve as the primary host plants for this species.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral, or Vanessa Atalanta, is a striking creature you have likely encountered. Brimming with unique characteristics, it captivates the interest of every observer.

Red admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: In Alabama, they are often seen in gardens, parks, and woodland edges.
  • Appearance: Black wings with red bands and white spots give Red Admirals a distinctive look.
  • Size: They range from 1.75 to 2.5 inches (or 45 to 63 mm) in wing span.
  • Diet: Favors nectar from flowers, rotting fruit and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Female lays single eggs on plant leaves, which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: With a short life span, they live for about 6 to 11 months.
  • Host Plants: Commonly nettles, but often include other herbaceous plants.

Here’s a butterfly that may catch you off guard with its vibrant colors and striking contrast. Now you know a little more about the Red Admiral, one of Alabama’s wonderful butterfly species.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Meet the Gulf Fritillary, a sensory delight with its vibrant orange wings dotted with black spots. Embodying the spirit of the Southern climate, this butterfly truly affirms Alabama’s immense diversity in the world of entomology.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: Loves tropical and subtropical environments. It can often be found in open spaces, roadsides, and parks.
  • Appearance: Dresses in bright orange wings with black spots. Underwing is brown with silver spots enhancing its charisma.
  • Size: Adult wingspan ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 inches (63-88mm), making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Mainly nectars on lantana and other bright flowers. Caterpillars enjoy passion flowers.
  • Reproduction: Lays eggs on Passionvine, upon which its larva feeds.
  • Lifespan: Lives 2-3 weeks on average. Successfully breeds throughout the year in warmer parts.
  • Host Plants: Primarily Passionvine. The female lays eggs on new shoots or tendrils, thereby providing fresh food source for the emerging caterpillars.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

The Cloudless Sulphur is one of the dazzling butterfly species native to Alabama. Distinguished by its larger size and vibrant lemon-yellow color, it’s a striking sight that catches everyone’s eye.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Primarily found in open spaces, gardens, and meadows, where their host plants grow.
  • Appearance: Bright lemon-yellow color covering the upper parts of wings and body with small, light-brown dots along the edge of the wings.
  • Size: Average wingspan ranges between 2.5-3 inches (6.4-7.6 cm) making it one of the larger butterfly species in Alabama.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar, favoring red and pink flowers, while caterpillars feast on legume plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single greenish-white eggs on the host plants where their larvae will feed.
  • Lifespan: In warm climates, they can live for several weeks to a few months.
  • Host Plants: Favoured host plants include wild senna, partridge pea, and Christmas senna.

With their sunny color and distinctive size, the Cloudless Sulphur is a beloved and iconic species in Alabama’s butterfly population.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

You’ve likely encountered the Variegated Fritillary if you’ve roamed through fields or roads in Alabama.

This striking butterfly contributes to the flourishing biodiversity for which the state is renowned.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Generally found in open areas, meadows, fields, and near roadsides. They prefer quiet, unpopulated spaces.
  • Appearance: The butterfly displays an array of colors. It has a fascinating pattern of reddish-brown, black, and tan on the upper side of the wings, while the underside shows a mottled pattern.
  • Size: With a wingspan of about 2 to 3.5 inches (5 to 9 cm), this medium-sized butterfly is noticeable from a distance.
  • Diet: Plant nectars, particularly thistles and milkweed, are favorite feasts for these creatures.
  • Reproduction: Mating season is in the summer, with eggs laid on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for approximately two weeks, though some records indicate individuals living up to a month.
  • Host Plants: They prefer feeding on violets (Viola) and passion flowers (Passiflora) for their larvae.

Small White (Pieris rapae)

The Small White, also known as the Cabbage White, is a common and dazzling sight in Alabama.

Small White butterfly

  • Habitat: You can spot them in meadows, fields, gardens, and urban areas.
  • Appearance: Boasting creamy-white wings adorned with black tips, it’s a charismatic species.
  • Size: Among the smaller butterflies, adults span about 2 inches (5cm) in width.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of plants is their feast.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay distinct, miniscule yellow eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan runs from two to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale are among their favorites, hence the nickname.

The Small White may be small in size but has a large presence in Alabama’s fauna. Watching them flutter around adds charm to any afternoon stroll.


You’ve now traveled through an amazing journey of 30 splendid butterfly species in Alabama.

As you can see, each one is unique in its hues and habits.

Feel free to leave a comment below about which species you found the most remarkable!

Butterflies   Updated: August 2, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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