30 Butterfly Species in Colorado

Welcome to an exploration of the vibrant world of Colorado’s butterfly species. Embark on a journey through the lives and habitats of 30 distinct butterflies that grace this beautiful state.

Prepare to be dazzled by the array of colors, shapes, and patterns these fluttering gems offer, each a marvel of nature’s vivid palette.

Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

The ‘Old World Swallowtail’ is a butterfly worth noticing in the Colorado landscape.

old world swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is widespread. You can find it in many open habitats like meadows, fields, and suburban areas.
  • Appearance: Spot this species by its yellow wings with blue, black, and red markings, and the distinctive ‘tails’ at the lower end.
  • Size: Notice that it is one of the larger butterflies, with a wingspan reaching 3.5-5.5 inches (9-14 cm).
  • Diet: Adults are often seen feeding on nectar from various plants. Caterpillars feed on leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, round, yellow-green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The Old World Swallowtail’s life span is around 7 to 14 days in the wild.
  • Host Plants: Watch for them in gardens, where host plants like fennel, parsley, and dill are grown.

Feel the joy of spotting this beautiful butterfly during your walks in Colorado.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady, scientifically named Vanessa virginiensis, adds a remarkable beauty to Colorado’s many butterfly species.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: They are adaptable, calling diverse environments their home – from sunny meadows to suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: They sport a fine display of colors starting with an orange and brown upper wing pattern, blending with black and white spots.
  • Size: These butterflies have a moderate size, boasting a wingspan of 2 – 2.75 inches (5 – 7 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar, often seen around favorite flowers like asters and goldenrods.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs solitary on host plants. The larvae, banded with varied colors, grow into vibrant chrysalises before transforming into adults.
  • Lifespan: The American Lady tends to live for two weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include various species of the ‘everlasting’ genus, often found in the wormwood family.

Apart from being a sight worth capturing, the American Lady plays a crucial role in our ecosystem by pollinating flowers.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, scientifically known as Nymphalis antiopa, is a frequent sight in Colorado. A close inspection will reveal its stunning beauty.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: Primarily woodland areas, parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: It possesses a brownish-maroon upper wing with an edging of yellow and blue spots. Underneath, the dark color serves as camouflage when they hibernate.
  • Size: The Mourning Cloak has a wingspan of about 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm).
  • Diet: Prefers feeding on tree sap, especially oak. It also likes overripe fruit and, when necessary, flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay groups of eggs on the twigs and bark of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Interestingly, it’s one of the longer-living butterflies, lasting up to 11 months.
  • Host Plants: Popular choices are willow, elm, and hackberry.

This well-adapted butterfly is worth looking out for during your next nature walk.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

Meet the butterfly species known as the Red-spotted Purple. Endowed with a slightly misleading name, this butterfly showcases magnificent blue shades, rather than red or purple.

This artistic ruse makes it one of the unique species found in Colorado.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is primarily located across woodlands and alongside streams.
  • Appearance: It displays a deep blue hue with spots and bands that encase the wings in white and red.
  • Size: The wingspan of a Red-spotted Purple is approximately 3 to 3.5 inches (approximately 7.5 to 9 cm).
  • Diet: They feed on tree sap, fermenting fruits, and occasionally nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay small clusters of eggs on host plants. Hatching larvae are camouflaged as bird droppings to avoid predators.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is roughly 1.5 to 2 months.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on several host plants, including Wild Cherry, Aspen, Cottonwood, and Willow.

Isn’t it remarkable how this species evolved to transform from a camouflaged larvae to a brilliant butterfly?

Pine White (Neophasia menapia)

The Pine White butterfly species, or Neophasia menapia, is a wonderfully unique addition to the Colorado butterfly habitat.

This butterfly species is largely found in coniferous forests, as they are dependent on pine trees for survival.

Pine White butterfly

  • Habitat: Coniferous forests and pine trees.
  • Appearance: They have delicate white wings with subtle black spotting and dark borders, bringing a touch of elegance to their simple coloration.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 1.5-2.5 inches (3.8-6.3 cm), they are considered medium-sized butterflies.
  • Diet: Adults feed on a diet of nectar from several wildflowers while caterpillars munch on the needles of pine trees.
  • Reproduction: They lay their eggs on the needles of pine trees where the larva feed and develop.
  • Lifespan: Adult Pine White butterflies typically live around 2 weeks in the wild, but their overall lifespan from egg to adult lasts about 2 months.
  • Host Plants: Mainly pine trees, but they have also been known to lay their eggs on other conifers such as spruce and fir.

Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)

The Coral Hairstreak is a small butterfly with interesting characteristics.

Coral Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: You can typically find this species in deciduous woods, meadows, or near fruit trees.
  • Appearance: Showcasing a striking brown color, this hairstreak doesn’t have tails like its namesakes. A distinguishing coral-red band outlines the hindwings.
  • Size: They are relatively small, with a wingspan of just 1.25 to 1.5 inches (3.17 to 3.81 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on flowers, while the caterpillars enjoy hawthorn, cherries, and plums.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the buds of host plants in early summer.
  • Lifespan: The larvae overwinter, and adults can be seen from July through August.
  • Host Plants: They favor wild cherry, wild plum, hawthorn, and serviceberry for their lifecycle.

Intriguing to observe, the Coral Hairstreak adds a charming touch of nature to Colorado’s vast flora and fauna.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is among the largest butterfly species witnessed in North America and certainly one of the most natural beauties found in Colorado.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies favor sunny, open areas with either dry or moist soil. You may often spot them fluttering about gardens, parks, and along forest edges.
  • Appearance: They boast striking yellow bands on black wings, with a characteristic tail-like extension at the end, resembling the flying beauty’s namesake.
  • Size: They generally hold an expansive wingspan, measuring in from 4 to 6 inches (10cm to 15cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies nectar on a variety of flowers while the caterpillars munch away on the leaves of citrus trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, round eggs on host plants. The resulting caterpillar is citrus green with small blue spots.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a lifespan of up to about a month during warmer summers.
  • Host Plants: Citrus trees serve as the primary host plants for their caterpillars.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Meet the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. This beauty is one of the most common butterfly species found in Colorado.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers open areas and edges of woodlands. It is known for roosting at treetops.
  • Appearance: Displays black and yellow striped wings. Female butterflies have blue spots on their wings.
  • Size: Quite impressive, with a wingspan reaching from 3.1 to 5.5 inches (8 to 14 cm).
  • Diet: Enjoys a variety of nectar from wildflowers like milkweed, phlox, and sweet fennel. As a caterpillar, it prefers leaves of ash, tulip, and cherry trees.
  • Reproduction: Lays single, green eggs on underside of host leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live for about a month during summer.
  • Host Plants: It selects ash, tulip, and cherry trees to lay their eggs.

Easily recognized and loved by many, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is an integral part of Colorado’s diverse butterfly population.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral is a vibrant butterfly that’s found all over Colorado.

red admiral butterfly

Now, let’s discuss more features:

  • Habitat: The Red Admirals conform well to various environments. From woodlands, open areas to marshes, they can be found almost everywhere.
  • Appearance: Sporting black wings with red-orange bands, they stand out among Colorado’s greenery. Add white spots near the tips, and you get a stunning creature.
  • Size: They’re moderate in size. An average wingspan ranges from 1.75 to 3 inches (4.5 to 7.6 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Red Admirals have an assorted diet. Nectar from plants, rotting fruit, and tree sap make up their usual meals.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on host plants. From the egg, a caterpillar hatches and eventually transforms into a beautiful butterfly.
  • Lifespan: They have a short life. About 45-60 days is their average life expectancy.
  • Host Plants: Red Admirals prefer nettle family plants, especially the stinging nettle for their larvae.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Specific to North America, the Monarch is an inhabitant of Colorado that you’ll often spot. Their unique migration patterns set them apart.


Let’s explore their characteristics:

  • Habitat: Gardens, meadows, and marsh areas.
  • Appearance: Deep orange wings with black borders and small, white spots.
  • Size: Adult Monarchs reach between 3.5-4 inches (9-10 cm) in width.
  • Diet: As larvae, they exclusively feed on milkweed. Adult Monarchs, on the other hand, favor nectar-bearing flowers.
  • Reproduction: Monarchs lay tiny, pale green eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves.
  • Lifespan: Although their lifespan varies, on average, they can live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed species are the host plants where they lay eggs and on which their caterpillars feed.

In the end, the Monarch is more than just a butterfly. It’s a symbol of endurance and change due to its long migration and interesting life cycle.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

To spot the Orange Sulphur, or Colias eurytheme, one can head anywhere from open fields to crop areas in Colorado.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: It’s found in many open areas, from roadsides to pastures, and even in agricultural fields. In cities, it prefers parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: Males exhibit an orange upperside with a dark border; females have two morphs. One morph resembles the male; the other is yellow or white.
  • Size: It’s a medium-sized butterfly averaging between 1.3 and 2 inches (3.3 to 5.1 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies sip nectar from various flowers, especially alfalfa, aster, and sagebrush. Caterpillars munch on variety of clovers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay singular green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: It undergoes multiple generations each year with adults living a few weeks on average.
  • Host Plants: Its host plants are legumes, especially alfalfa, clover, and pea plants.

This butterfly’s pretty colors and fondness for garden flowers make it a lovely sight in many different environments.

Gray Copper (Lycaena dione)

The Gray Copper, known scientifically as Lycaena dione, is a fascinating species you may encounter in Colorado.

Gray copper (Lycaena dione), female

Let’s delve into understanding this butterfly variety:

  • Habitat: Favours open spaces such as meadows, fields, or even vacant lots.
  • Appearance: Males are gray to purplish on top; females are more brownish. Both have orange patches on their forewings.
  • Size: Typically, wingspans range from 1.25 to 1.75 inches (3.2 to 4.4 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, this species usually feed on nectar from flowers like the goldenrod and aster.
  • Reproduction: Gray Coppers breed once or twice a year, depending on geographical location.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is short, a matter of weeks, as is common for many butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Predominantly, the larvae of the Gray Copper feed on Dock and Sorrel plants.

Keep an eye out for this species on your nature walks. Their understated elegance is breathtaking.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Great Spangled Fritillary is a fascinating butterfly with a distinct pattern and features. It’s one you shouldn’t miss when in Colorado.

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: Tends to thrive in meadows, fields, and gardens where host plants, like violets, are present.
  • Appearance: Gorgeous orange-brown wings with black spots across the top. The underside of the hindwings showcases a lovely pattern of silver spots, giving it its name.
  • Size: This large butterfly has a wingspan ranging from 2.5-4 inches (63.5-101.6 mm) on average.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies usually feed on nectar from various flowers like thistles and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs near or on host plant leaves. The hatched caterpillars feed voraciously on these leaves.
  • Lifespan: In its adult stage, it lives for approximately one month during the summer.
  • Host Plants: Violets are the primary host plants, where the female butterfly lays her eggs.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Often encountered in Colorado, the Gulf Fritillary offers a bright spectacle with its ornate wings.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: This butterfly prefers warmer regions and open spaces, such as parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: The top side of the wings shines in bright orange, adorned with a pattern of white and black dots. The underside is paler, with distinctive silver spots.
  • Size: These species have a wingspan around 3 to 3.5 inches (7.6 to 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Gulf Fritillaries feed on the nectar of flowers like lantanas or wild coffee.
  • Reproduction: The mating process begins with several males pursuing a single female. After mating, the female Gulf Fritillary lays her yellowish-white eggs on the passionflower vine.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of adults is about two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Passionflower vines, particularly the Passiflora species, are the primary host plants for this butterfly. These serve as a superb and exclusive food source for the caterpillars.

Cherish every sight of this vivid butterfly when it visits your vibrant Colorado garden in the warmer months.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

You’ve likely seen the Cabbage White Butterfly often. Its presence is not limited to Colorado but spreads well over entire North America.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies make their homes in sunny, open spaces such as gardens, parks, and fields.
  • Appearance: The predominant color is white, aided by its black spots on the wings and a light gray tip on each wing.
  • Size: The Cabbage White stretches out approximately 2 inches (around 5 centimeters).
  • Diet: They mostly feed on nectar, especially from mustards and mints.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale, yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is a brief one, usually just 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larva of a Cabbage White Butterfly, more commonly known as green caterpillar, feasts on a variety of plants, but they have a particular affinity for those in the Brassicaceae family, like cabbages and radishes.

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

Anise Swallowtail, a butterfly species native to North America, is a common visitor to Colorado.

anise swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This species enjoys a variety of environments, including your neighborhood garden, park or meadow.
  • Appearance: Known for its distinct black and yellow markings, the Anise Swallowtail is a sight to behold.
  • Size: Adult butterflies can reach a size of 52-80 mm, making them medium-to-large sized.
  • Diet: Adult Anise Swallowtails feed on the nectar from flowers, while the caterpillars feed primarily on Anise and Fennel.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on host plants, where the transformed larvae can start feeding immediately.
  • Lifespan: They live around a month to six weeks, though the overall life cycle from egg to adult is close to two months.
  • Host Plants: Favored host plants include Anise, Fennel, and other herbs from the carrot family.

Bear in mind that each butterfly species has special attributes. So, always do your research before interacting with these beautiful creatures.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy Butterfly is a stunning embodiment of nature’s ingenuity.


  • Habitat: They’re found near wetlands and in meadows or fields, predominantly near their host plants – the willow and aspen trees.
  • Appearance: Viceroys are primarily identified by their orange and black markings, resembling the infamous Monarch Butterfly, an example of Batesian mimicry.
  • Size: Wing widths stretch to approximately 3 inches or 7.5 centimeters.
  • Diet: Their diet mostly consists of nectar from flowers but larvae feed on leaves of willow and poplar trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of aspen or willow trees, where the larvae will stay until transforming into a beautiful butterly.
  • Lifespan: The Viceroy has a rapid lifespan, generally spanning 2 weeks in summer; however, some overwinter, lengthening their age to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: Willows, poplars, and cottonwood trees are the primary host plants for the Viceroy butterfly.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

The Queen is a remarkable butterfly species found in Colorado. Diverse and adaptable, they have an extensive habitat range.

Queen Butterfly

  • Habitat: Queens predominantly inhabit pastures, open areas, and deserts. They are more populous in warm climates.
  • Appearance: They boast an attractive palette, their wings flaunting an exquisite blend of browns and blacks with white spots.
  • Size: Medium-sized, the Queen has a wingspan between 2.75-3.5 inches, or 70-90 mm, on average.
  • Diet: The adult Queen butterfly predominantly sips nectar from plants like milkweeds, meanwhile the caterpillars feed on the leaves of the same plants.
  • Reproduction: Like many butterflies, Queens lay eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which metamorphose into vivid adults.
  • Lifespan: Queens are relatively long-lived, surviving up to several weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plant is milkweed — a vital part of their life cycle as it serves as a nourishing food source for the growing caterpillars.

Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)

The Southern Dogface is a captivating butterfly species you might often see around Colorado.

Southern Dogface butterfly

  • Habitat: Found mainly in open, sunny areas. These include prairie lands, road edges, parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Its pattern resembles a dog’s profile when wings are closed. It sports bright yellow color on both sexes. The wings have black borders with elongated dark spots on the tops of the forewings.
  • Size: It boasts a wingspan of 2-3 inches, equivalent to 5-8 cm.
  • Diet: Adults tend to sip nectar from pink, purple or white flowers. They especially enjoy milkweeds and thistles.
  • Reproduction: Larvae pass through five growth stages. Females lay eggs individually on the host plants, typically on the underside of leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adult Southern Dogfaces live around a month.
  • Host Plants: Mostly feed on various species of clover and alfalfa.

This truly remarkable species surely is a jewel adding to Colorado’s natural beauty.

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

The Zebra Heliconian is a unique species found in Colorado. Known primarily for their striking black and yellow striped pattern, their extravagant beauty is a sight to behold.

zebra longwing butterfly

Here are some facts about the species:

  • Habitat: They thrive mainly in tropical environments but have adapted well to Colorado’s climate.
  • Appearance: Known for their zebralike stripe pattern, their wings showcase a stunning contrast of black and yellow.
  • Size: Adult Zebra Heliconians grow to an impressive wingspan of 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on pollen and nectar, while larvae consume foliage of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Their mating rituals are complex, involving air dances and pheromone releases.
  • Lifespan: These butterflies can live relatively long, up to six months.
  • Host Plants: Passion vines are their primary host plant, providing the necessary nutrients for larvae to grow.

They are not only a sight to behold, but their prolonged lifespan makes them a significant part of the local ecosystem.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Largely found around North America, the Black Swallowtail enjoys a diverse habitat.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: In Colorado, look for them along roadsides, in yards, or open areas.
  • Appearance: Black Swallowtails display black wings with yellow spots tracing their edges. A red ring on the hind wings adds distinction.
  • Size: Your gaze can easily land on them, as they span 2.7-3.5 inches, or 69-90 millimeters wide.
  • Diet: As adults, they love nectar. On the other hand, caterpillars mostly feed on plants from parsley family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of leaves, hatching into black-spotted green caterpillars.
  • Lifespan:  Life can be fleeting for a Black Swallowtail, they typically live between 10-12 days as butterflies.
  • Host Plants:  If you grow parsley, fennel, carrot, or Queen Anne’s Lace, don’t be surprised if Black Swallowtails decide to call your garden home.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

This graceful butterfly is the Painted Lady, scientifically known as Vanessa cardui.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Open, bright environments such as meadows and gardens suit them perfectly.
  • Appearance: They present a blend of orange and black on their wings, giving them a beautiful stained-glass window effect.
  • Size: Adult Painted Ladies have a wingspan of 5 to 9 cm or 2 to 3.5 inches.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar from various flower types.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the upper side of host plants’ leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their short but fruitful life ranges from two to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: Some of their favorite are thistles, mallows, and legumes.

Often on the move, these creatures are one true sight to behold in the sunny Colorado atmosphere.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is a captivating member of Colorado’s butterfly population.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s a deeper look at this particular species:

  • Habitat: It primarily resides in woodlands and fields, thriving in landscapes decked with plentiful spicebush.
  • Appearance: Sporting an elegant black-blue sheen, with intricate blue and orange spots outlining the lower wings, this species is a sight to behold.
  • Size: Adults can grow up to 4 inches (approximately 10 cm), making it one of the larger butterflies you’ll spot.
  • Diet: Its love for nectar often leads it to a diet consisting of thistle, milkweed, and clover.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on their preferred host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult spicebush swallowtails tend to live around a month, given favorable conditions.
  • Host Plants: The larvae largely feed on sassafras trees and of course, the spicebush.

These unique attributes make the Spicebush Swallowtail a no-miss treat in Colorado’s butterfly watching sessions.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Gray Hairstreak, scientifically known as Strymon melinus, is a charming butterfly species seen fluttering around in Colorado.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in a myriad of diverse locations, from prairies to urban areas. They enjoy areas abundant in their larval host plants.
  • Appearance: Gray Hairstreaks feature a grayish-blue underside with dotted orange and black borders. Their strikingly blue tail with orange spots is a captivating sight.
  • Size: This butterfly is relatively small compared to others, with a wingspan of 1.25 to 1.75 inches (3.17 to 4.44 cm).
  • Diet: The adult butterflies are seen sipping nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, pale green eggs on the buds of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Generally, these creatures live for about one month in the adult stage.
  • Host Plants: Interestingly, Gray Hairstreak larvae feed on a variety of plants, including cotton, beans, peas, and clover.

This small, eye-catching butterfly adds to Colorado’s biodiversity and charm.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

Let’s delve into the fascinating world of the Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma).

Eastern Comma butterfly

  • Habitat: These creatures favor sunny open spaces and shady wooded areas. They’re common in North America and are also found in Colorado.
  • Appearance: As indicated by the name, they possess a silver, comma-shaped mark on their dark underwings.
  • Size: Typically, their size range between 1.75-2.1 inches (4.4-5.3 cm).
  • Diet: They feed off tree sap and ripe fruit with a particular fondness for rotting fruit.
  • Reproduction: Breeding occurs twice every year, in spring and late summer.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live for about a year, quite a remarkable length in the butterfly world.
  • Host Plants: In Colorado, Eastern Commas use plants such as nettles, elms, and hops as hosts for their eggs and caterpillars. Be sure to look out for these beautiful creatures on your next nature walk.

Silver-Spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Silver-Spotted Skipper, Epargyreus clarus, is a fascinating butterfly, native to Colorado. Gathered here are some fascinating details about it.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: Favors areas with flowering plants and shrubs, such as gardens, parks, and fields.
  • Appearance: A noticeable silver-white spot on the underside of its hindwing distinguishes it; upper body is brown with yellow-dashed trail.
  • Size: Wingspan ranges from 1.75 to 2.5 inches (4.4 to 6.4 cm).
  • Diet: Typically feeds on nectar from pink, red, and purple flowers.
  • Reproduction: Lays eggs singly under host plant leaves; Caterpillars live in silk nests on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for about a month during summer.
  • Host Plants: Commonly host on legumes, especially locust trees.

Knowing these characteristics will surely help you identify the Silver-Spotted Skipper, a unique butterfly found in Colorado.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

The Two-tailed Swallowtail, known scientifically as Papilio multicaudata, is an absolute masterpiece and it thrives in the wilds of Colorado.

You’ll stand in awe witnessing this magical creature up close.

Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)

  • Habitat: These chaps don’t shy away from urban areas, so you might spot them chilling in parks and gardens. They do have a special liking for moist environments with groves of deciduous trees.
  • Appearance: Their distinguishing feature? Two pairs of tails on the hindwings! They boast a pale yellow color with black stripes and blue markings obtaining a regal air.
  • Size: They usually fall in the range of 3.5 to 5 inches (75-125 mm). That’s a decent wingspan, right?
  • Diet: Predominantly feed on nectar from flowers when they are adults. The young ones, or larvae, like to munch on leaves of various trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on host plants. That way, the caterpillars have plenty to eat when they hatch.
  • Lifespan: Not very long unfortunately. A mere two weeks in their butterfly form. Quite ephemeral indeed.
  • Host Plants: Their favorites include various species of ash, cherry, and willow trees.

The Two-tailed Swallowtail is the state butterfly of Arizona, but it’s found in abundance in Colorado as well. So keep your eyes open next time you go for a stroll.

Who knows, you might have a special encounter with this fascinating flyer!

Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus)

The Ruddy Daggerwing is a peculiar butterfly species that leaves a lasting impression. This species is relatively easy to identify due to their unmistakable appearance.

Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer tropical and subtropical forests and edges of wooded areas. They’re commonly seen in parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: These butterflies are large and flaunt their bright orange wings with beautifully contrasting black margins and white-spotted tips.
  • Size: The Ruddy Daggerwing generally averages between 3.1 and 3.5 in (80 – 90 mm) wingspan.
  • Diet: The primary diet consists of nectar from various flower species, ripe fruit, and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs singly on the underside leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan in the adult stage ranges between 2 – 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larval host plants are primarily trees in the Moraceae family, especially Ficus species.

Take a moment to admire the vibrant color and pattern of the Ruddy Daggerwing when you encounter one in Colorado.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye or Junonia coenia is a butterfly species that you can often spot in Colorado.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly prefers open, sunny areas such as meadows, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The Common Buckeye boasts eye-catching eyespots on its upper wings, adorned with brown, orange, and white markings on a brown background.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 1.5 to 2.7 inches (3.8 to 6.9 cm), this species is small to medium in size.
  • Diet: Their diet typically includes nectar from various flowers like aster, chickory, and knapweed.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay their eggs singularly on the buds or flowers of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is around two weeks after reaching their adult stage.
  • Host Plants: Common host plants include snapdragons, plantains, and members of the verbena family.

This eye-catching butterfly is common yet remarkable, a perfect example of Colorado’s diverse butterfly population.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

The Aphrodite Fritillary is a butterfly species that captures the dazzling essence of Colorado’s wilderness. When you spot one, you’re indeed a privileged observer.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Thrives in open woodland settings and alpine meadows. You might also find them at high altitudes up to 11,000 feet.
  • Appearance: Characterized by a brown-orange color pattern with bold black markings. Females are lighter than males.
  • Size: This butterfly grows around 2.2-3.1 inches (5.6-7.9 cm). Males are a bit smaller than females.
  • Diet: They feed on nectar from a range of flowering plants, and males often receive minerals from mud puddles.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the host plant. The caterpillars eat the plant’s leaves before undergoing metamorphosis.
  • Lifespan: The adults usually live 2-3 weeks, while the full life cycle extends to a year.
  • Host Plants: Common violets (Viola sororia) compose their main diet during the caterpillar stage.

Spotting an Aphrodite Fritillary involves patience and a keen eye, but the reward is worth the effort.


Clearly, Colorado’s butterfly community is both rich and diverse, waiting to be discovered and appreciated by you.

So when next you’re out exploring, take a moment to observe the wonder of these 30 species of butterflies.

We’d love to hear which of these winged beauties you’ve had the pleasure of spotting, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

Butterflies   Updated: August 3, 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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