30 Butterfly Species in Illinois

Discover the stunning diversity of butterflies in Illinois with our guide on 30 butterfly species native to the region.

From the Painted Lady to the Pipevine Swallowtail, you’ll find these creatures both fascinating and beautiful.

Explore with us, learning vital information and interesting facts about these remarkable insects.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is indeed one of Illinois’s most charming butterflies.

painted lady butterfly

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Habitat: Found in a vast array of environments, including meadows, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: This butterfly sports a predominant orange hue, with black and white markings on its wings.
  • Size: Adults usually span 2 to 2.9 inches (5 to 7.3 cm) in width.
  • Diet: Adult Painted Ladies feed primarily on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: They lay eggs only on the host plant where the larvae will feed. Males patrol for females in the afternoon.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Favorites include thistles, burdock, and Malva.

Keep an eye out for these colorful critters come spring and summer, as they migrate northward during these warmer seasons.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

Journeying through Illinois, you’ll surely cross paths with the Spicebush Swallowtail. Known for its striking presence, this butterfly species holds a special beauty that sets it apart from others.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

Let’s delve deeper:

  • Habitat: They’re found in forests, meadows, and your backyard.
  • Appearance: Dark-coloured upper wings with blue spots. Undersides of hind wings have two rows of orange spots.
  • Size: They vary in size, but typically their wingspan ranges between 3-4 inches (about 7.6-10.2 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar from plants such as milkweed, azalea, and dogbane. The caterpillars feed on spicebush or sassafras leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of host plants. These eggs hatch into caterpillars and begin to feed instantly.
  • Lifespan: Adults live only about 2 weeks. However, the entire lifecycle from egg to adult takes about 1 month.
  • Host Plants: Spicebush, sassafras, tulip tree, sweetbay, and other plants of the laurel family.

Enjoy spotting these magnificent insects in the lush landscapes of Illinois.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma is no doubt one of the remarkable butterfly species you’ll find in Illinois.

Eastern Comma butterfly

Here’s a snapshot of their unique characteristics:

  • Habitat: Typically residing in wooded areas and marshes.
  • Appearance: Known for its orange-brown wings with a unique comma-shaped mark on the underwings.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 4.5 to 6.4 cm (1.8 to 2.5 inches), they’re relatively small.
  • Diet: They feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, and occasional nectar.
  • Reproduction: Mating season is in the spring, with females laying their eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived as adults, often around two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Mostly use the Netted Chainfern and the False Foxglove. Other host plants include Hops and Elms.

This small creature is a delight to watch and is truly a symbol of beauty and grace in the insect world.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is a frequent sight in Illinois. Endowed with striking colors, it captivates observers with its beauty.

red admiral butterfly

Let’s delve into its specifics:

  • Habitat: It’s a versatile butterfly, dwelling in varied environments like meadows, gardens, parks, and even marshes.
  • Appearance: Sporting bold colors, it has black wings with a fiery orange-red band and white spots.
  • Size: It’s medium-sized, with a wingspan of 1.75–3 inches (4.4-7.6 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies have a sweet tooth, feeding on nectars of various plants and often seen feasting on ripe fruits.
  • Reproduction: Females usually lay eggs on the upper side of the nettle leaves, a host plant for the larva.
  • Lifespan: Red Admirals typically live for up to 9 months, longer than most butterfly species.
  • Host Plants: Favorite among caterpillars, nettles provide a perfect breeding ground.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Black Swallowtails are a common sight in Illinois. What makes them special?

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Habitat: Likely places to spot them include open fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The males are black with yellow spots while the females also possess a band of blue spots.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm), they are mid-sized butterflies.
  • Diet: The adults feed on flower nectar while the caterpillars munch on plant leaves.
  • Reproduction: Female Black Swallowtails lay their spherical, cream-colored eggs on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: They live up to two weeks, a typical lifespan for butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Dill, fennel, and parsley are among their favorite host plants.

From their vibrant coloring to their affinity for common garden plants, Black Swallowtails are remarkable members of Illinois’ butterfly population.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

You might already be acquainted with the Monarch butterfly, but have you met its close relative, the Queen?

Quite appropriately named, this stunning butterfly species is one of the queens of the butterfly realm in Illinois.

Queen Butterfly

  • Habitat: Queens can usually be found in sunny open places including fields, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: The Queen sports a dark brown color with white spots and streaks, giving it a majestic, regal look.
  • Size: Queens are quite large as their wings vaguely span between 7-8 cm, tinting the landscape as they flutter by.
  • Diet: They enjoy sipping nectar from a variety of flowers, showing a preference for milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Queen butterflies lay eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves, their favorite host plant.
  • Lifespan: They live about 2 to 6 weeks, a brief but undeniably fascinating existence.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed are the primary host plants for Queens, providing a home for their offsprings while also serving as their food source during the larvae stage. With its royal accents and elegant aura, the Queen butterfly surely is a memorable sight for anyone lucky enough to witness it.

Small White (Pieris rapae)

Small White, or Cabbage White, is a type of butterfly commonly found in Illinois. It’s also known as “Pieris rapae”. Enjoy exploring some interesting details about Small White butterfly.

Small White butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically, they inhabit open spaces like meadows, gardens, and parks.
  • Appearance: They are primarily white with black tips on their wings. Females feature two black spots on each forewing.
  • Size: Adults have a wingspan of about 1.5-2 inches (about 38-50 mm).
  • Diet: These butterflies feed on nectar from a wide range of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Female Small Whites lay singular, spindle-shaped, yellowish eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Small Whites live for around two weeks after emerging as adults.
  • Host Plants: Cabbage, turnip, mustard, and radish plants serve as host plants for their larvae, earning them the alternate name “Cabbage White”.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Cupido comyntas, also known as the Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly, is a small yet memorable butterfly you’ll encounter in Illinois.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies favor open habitats, such as fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: They are named for their tailed hindwings and iridescent blue color. Females are dark grey with blue edges.
  • Size: They are quite small, with a wingspan ranging between just 0.79 and 1.3 inches (2 to 3.3 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Eastern Tailed-Blues feed on nectar from various flowers like clovers, hairy vetch, and tick trefoils, whereas their larvae eat leaves of legume species.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs individually on the host plant. The eggs hatch into greenish larvae which feed on flowers and seed pods.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a short lifespan, living up to a week, but they manage to have multiple generations each year.
  • Host Plants: The host plants include a wide spectrum of leguminous plants including clovers, alfalfa, and beans.

Try to find these little magical creatures during your next nature walk. They are truely a small blue-tailed wonder of Illinois.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple butterfly, also known as Limenitis arthemis, is one of the most striking butterfly species spotted in Illinois.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in deciduous woods, parks, and suburbs.
  • Appearance: It boasts a dark, blue-black color profile with gleaming blue or deep blue-purple spots on its wings. The distinctive red spots near the tips add to its appeal.
  • Size: These butterflies are fairly large, with a wingspan of around 3-3.5 inches, or 7.5-8.9 cm.
  • Diet: You’ll find them feeding on rotting fruit, tree sap, and animal droppings.
  • Reproduction: Red-spotted Purples have one or two broods from May through October.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from two weeks up to a month as adults.
  • Host Plants: They lay eggs on a variety of plants, including wild cherry and aspen. The young caterpillars feed mostly on leaves of these plants.

This captivating butterfly with a vibrant blend of colors, makes for a charming sight.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly is a captivating species you’re likely to encounter in Illinois.

Viceroy butterfly

Here’s all you need to know about this little marvel:

  • Habitat: They’re typically found in marshy areas, meadows, and along the edges of forests.
  • Appearance: Viceroys are known for their orange and black pattern, almost identical to the Monarch, although they’re slightly smaller.
  • Size: They span about 2.5 – 3.5 inches (approx. 63.5 – 89mm), making it easy to spot them.
  • Diet: These butterflies feed on nectar from flowers and also munch on willow and poplar leaves.
  • Reproduction: Viceroys lay eggs individually on the leaves of host plants. The caterpillars are then hatched within a week and mature into adults in two weeks.
  • Lifespan: The adult Viceroy’s lifespan is from one to two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include willow trees and poplar trees. As larvae, they use these plants for food and protection.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

This butterfly is quite common in Illinois. Originally a southern U.S. species, it has steadily expanded its range.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

  • Habitat: Particularly thrives in grasslands, wastelands, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Sports a slightly checkered design, with white to bluish-white squares against a smoky gray background.
  • Size: An adult’s wingspan typically ranges from 0.8 to 1.1 inches, or about 2 to 3 centimeters.
  • Diet: Prefers to sip nectar from a variety of flowers, though it favors those from the aster family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the host plant leaves. These hatch into larvae within a few days.
  • Lifespan: As is typical for butterflies, their life is fairly short.
  • Host Plants: Particularly favors plants in the mallow family, including hollyhock and checkerbloom. The larvae feed on these before they metamorphose into adult butterflies.

Their fast flight and small size can make the Common Checkered-Skipper a challenge to spot. But patiently watching the flowers in their habitats, you’re sure to spot this charming insect.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak butterfly is a fascinating species that you can encounter in Illinois.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive in a range of environments, including parks, gardens, and forest edges.
  • Appearance: The Mourning Cloak boasts a distinctive dark, maroon-brown color with contrasting yellowish edges.
  • Size: They span about 2.5-4 inches or 6-10 cm wide.
  • Diet: This species primarily feeds on tree sap, ripe fruit and occasionally, flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: The female Mourning Cloaks lay cluster of eggs on leaves or twigs.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies can live up to 11 months, one of the longest lifespans among butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Among their preferred host plants are willow, poplar, and hackberry trees.

This butterfly species is quite remarkable as they spend their winter hibernating, something not common among their kind. This unusual trait adds to their charm and uniqueness.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary, scientifically known as Agraulis Vanillae, is an interesting butterfly species to look out for. Below are some of its fascinating characteristics.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: Primarily in the southern parts of Illinois, it aims for more tropic climates.
  • Appearance: Distinguished by the bright orange color with silver spots under its wings.
  • Size: Wing spans range from about 65-95 mm (2.5-3.7 inches).
  • Diet: Sugar nectar from flowers is the main energy source for adults.
  • Reproduction: Female lays up to 140 eggs, one by one, on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Typically, its lifespan is about a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Its larvae feed mostly on plants from the passionflower family.

The Gulf Fritillary is a bold sight, owing to its bright orange wing tops. It dabbles into Illinois, adding a tropical touch to the region’s butterfly populace.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady is a fascinating creature that adds beauty to the Illinois landscape.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are extremely adaptable and can be found in a variety of settings such as meadows, fields, open areas, and gardens throughout Illinois.
  • Appearance: Flaunting an exquisite blend of brown, orange, and white hues, they’re distinguished by two large eyespots on the ventral side.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 2 to 2.75 inches (5-7 cm.), they are indeed a sight to behold.
  • Diet: Adult American Ladies sip on flower nectar, while the larvae feed mostly on plants in the Aster family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs singly on the tops of host plant leaves, which hatch into caterpillars in a few days.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live for about two weeks in their adult form.
  • Host Plants: Favored host plants include species of Aster, and they’re known to favor cudweed.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye has a unique attraction to open, sunny spaces.

Common Buckeye butterfly

Here’s detailed look at this species:

  • Habitat: They are broadly distributed across the US, with Illinois being no exception. They often populate sunny, open areas like fields and gardens.
  • Appearance: Buckeyes are easily recognizable due to their eye-like marks on their wings. The wings’ backgrounds are deep brown with orange and white bands.
  • Size: They showcase a large wingspan that measures 2 to 2.8 inches, around 5 to 7 cm.
  • Diet: Adult Buckeyes feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, while the caterpillars eat leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: The female Buckeyes scatter eggs on plants which serve as food for the hatching caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The total lifespan from egg to butterfly lasts from 3 to 4 weeks, depennding on the conditions.
  • Host Plants: Buckeye caterpillar feed on a wide range of plants, most commonly plants from the snapdragon family.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The vibrant Great Spangled Fritillary is a sight to behold. Let’s dive deeper to get to know this remarkable species.

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: They inhabit open woodlands, prairies, and wet meadows. They can be seen flying low, just above the top of grass.
  • Appearance: They boast an orange-brown color with black marks on the upper side. The underwings have silver spots which give them their name.
  • Size: The butterfly has a wide wingspan, measuring 2.5 to 4 inches (6.35 to 10.16 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from various flowers such as milkweed and thistles.
  • Reproduction: After mating in mid-summer, the females lay their eggs on or near violets, the preferred food of the caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: They enjoy a short lifespan of about one month.
  • Host Plants: The violet is their primary host plant. Caterpillars feed on the leaves until they’re ready to metamorphose into adults.

This butterfly is a wonder of the butterfly world, boasting a splendor that’s awe-inspiring. Capture a glimpse of it and it’s sure to brighten your day!

Orange Sulphur/ Alfalfa Butterfly (Colias eurytheme)

Meet the Orange Sulphur, commonly known as the Alfalfa Butterfly. This frequent visitor to Illinois adds a dash of delightful yellow to the landscape.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot this butterfly fluttering across meadows and roadsides, and even in your garden.
  • Appearance: Sporting a lovely lemon tint with black borders, it’s a sight to behold. Some females may have a green-white pattern.
  • Size: With an average wingspan of 1.6 inches (4.06 cm), it’s modestly sized but no less eye-catching.
  • Diet: Adult Orange Sulphurs feed on nectar. Plant some alfalfa or clover to invite them over.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs one by one on host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Short but sweet! Usually lives for around a week.
  • Host Plants: Alfalfa, clover, and legumes make a perfect home for larvae.

Adding one of these to your butterfly spotting list would indeed be a feast for the eyes!

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

The Zebra Heliconian is a charming butterfly species native to Illinois. Flaunting an impressive set of wings that may turn heads wherever they flutter.

zebra longwing butterfly

  • Habitat: Zebra Heliconians dwell mostly in tropical hammocks and open fields.
  • Appearance: Sporting black-and-white stripes like their namesake, Zebra Heliconians can’t help but make a stylish statement.
  • Size: They’re typically in the range of 3.5 to 4 inches (9 to 10 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As an adult, they feed on nectar from a wide variety of flowering plants. The caterpillars survive on passion vine leaves.
  • Reproduction: This species has a knack for laying their eggs on specific host plants – the passion vines.
  • Lifespan: Intriguingly, Zebra Heliconians have an extended lifespan compared to other butterflies, living up to 6 months.
  • Host Plants: In their caterpillar stage, passion vines are the only source of nutrition they need to develop into beautiful adults.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

Get ready to discover the Hackberry Emperor, or Asterocampa celtis.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is found near hackberry trees, its preferred home, and is commonly seen in urban areas and woodlands. From spring through fall, keep an eye out for them sunning on trees or houses.
  • Appearance: It boasts a more modest brown coloration than its brilliant peers. The undersides of the lower wings, however, exhibit attractive eyespots.
  • Size: They are medium-sized, with a wingspan ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 inches (3-6 centimeters).
  • Diet: This special creature prefers overripe fruit, tree sap, and damp mud over flowers. Quite peculiar!
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs in singular fashion on hackberry leaves.
  • Lifespan: Once matured, Hackberry Emperors can live up to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: As the name suggests, the Hackberry tree is their host plant. The larvae feed on the leaves until they transition into adult butterflies.

Never underestimate the Hackberry Emperor’s unique lifestyle and delicate beauty. Illinois is full of surprises, isn’t it?

Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria)

Consider the Goatweed Leafwing, a unique butterfly species to be found in Illinois that is renowned for its leaf-like appearance.

Goatweed Leafwing, Anaea andria, male

  • Habitat: Leafwings are woodland creatures. You’ll find them in areas with dense deciduous trees.
  • Appearance: They get their name for an uncanny resemblance to dry leaves—an ingenious form of camouflaging.
  • Size: A sizeable species, they boast of a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm).
  • Diet: Check a patch of rotting fruit or tree sap, and you might just spot a Goatweed Leafwing feeding.
  • Reproduction: After mating, the female Leafwing lays eggs mainly on the Goatweed plant, which gives the species its name.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live an astounding six to nine months, unfathomably long in the butterfly world!
  • Host Plants: The Goatweed plant is indeed their primary host plant, but you’ll also find these leafy lookalikes near Crotons.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark butterfly is a delightful creature with its distinctive ‘question mark’ marking on the underwing.

Question Mark butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly often resides in wooded habitats, forest edges or near riverbanks.
  • Appearance: It boasts a beautiful orange and brown coloration with black spots on its wings.
  • Size: Average wingspan is between 5-7 cm (approx. 2-3 inches).
  • Diet: Adults feed on overripe fruit and tree sap, occasionally nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singularly on host plants where the larvae will feed.
  • Lifespan: Its lifespan extends from a couple weeks to several months, as some adults hibernate.
  • Host Plants: They favor plants of the nettle family, including stinging nettle, wood nettle, and false nettle.

Their vibrant color and unique punctuation mark makes them a fun find for any butterfly enthusiast in Illinois.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

The Aphrodite Fritillary is a traditionally elusive creature, with a predilection towards meadows, fields, and woodland edges.

Strikingly beautiful, it displays wings adorned in silver spots on a dark brown backdrop. With a wingspan of 2.2-2.6 inches (5.5-6.7 cm), it is a medium-sized butterfly.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly

Here’s a brief overview of the species:

  • Habitat: Prefers meadows, fields and woodland edges.
  • Appearance: Showcases dark brown wings speckled with silver spots.
  • Size: Possesses a wingspan of 2.2-2.6 inches (5.5-6.7 cm).
  • Diet: Sustains on nectar from Thistles, Milkweed, and Aster flowers.
  • Reproduction: They lay singular eggs on violet leaves, the caterpillar’s food source.
  • Lifespan: Adults live about a week, though the entire lifecycle is around one year.
  • Host Plants: Look out for violets; they serve as the host plants.

Despite such wondrous beauty, Aphrodite Fritillaries remain under threat due to habitat loss. Keep an eye out on your next nature walk; you might just spot one!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a captivating butterfly known for its large size and vibrant coloration. Common across Illinois, they’re often sighted in colorful displays of fluttering wings.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Thrives in varied environments, from woodlands to suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: Exhibits yellow and black striped wings, with four similar colored stripes on each side of the body. Males have less blue on the hind wings than females.
  • Size: Ranges from 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Mainly feeds on nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants. Each brood consists of hundreds of eggs.
  • Lifespan: Adult lifespan is about one month, allowing for multiple generations each year.
  • Host Plants: Commonly eggs are laid on trees like wild cherry, tulip tree, and birch.

This butterfly, distinct in its markings, adds an enchanting charm to the state’s biodiversity.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

The Monarch butterfly is one of the most famous species in Illinois. Its striking colors and migration patterns have made it a popular and common sight.


  • Habitat: This species can be seen in various locations, from open fields to suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: They are best known for their orange wings with black veins, bordered with white spots.
  • Size: Adult Monarchs range from 3.7 to 4.1 inches (around 9.5 to 10.5 cm) in width.
  • Diet: Monarch caterpillars feast on milkweeds while adults drink nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: The females lay eggs on milkweeds, which serve as the caterpillar’s food source upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from 2 to 6 weeks for the first three generations. The final generation can live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Milkweeds serve as both the place of egg-laying and the primary food source for Monarch caterpillars.

Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)

The Silvery Checkerspot is part of the diverse butterfly fauna residing in Illinois.

Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: These species are found in open woodlands and prairie hillsides.
  • Appearance: Characterized by a pattern of orange and brown on the upper side and silver spots on the lower side of their wings, making them quite distinctive.
  • Size: Adults measure around 1.6 to 2.4 inches (4 to 6 cm) in width.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar from various types of composites including aster and dogbane.
  • Reproduction: Mating season typically occurs in spring or summer.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is relatively short as they usually live a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae feed on aster plant species, hence the females lay eggs here.

Keep an eye out for the Silvery Checkerspot as you explore Illinois’ rich tapestry of fauna. Their distinct look and remarkable life cycle make them a fascinating butterfly species!

Baltimore (Euphydryas phaeton)

The Baltimore, also known as the Baltimore Checkerspot, is an important butterfly species found in Illinois. It’s renowned for its elegant appearance and unique lifecycle.

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: Balitmore butterflies thrive in wet meadows and marshes. They often reside near host plants.
  • Appearance: These butterflies flaunt striking black, orange, and white patterns on their wings, resembling a checkerboard layout.
  • Size: Balitmores are medium-sized, with wingspans ranging between 1.5 – 2.3 inches (3.8 – 5.8 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Baltimores feed mainly on flower nectar while caterpillars feast on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Reproduction: A single female Baltimore may lay up to 400 eggs on host plants after mating.
  • Lifespan: On average, the lifespan of a Baltimore butterfly is approximately 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) is the primary host plant. They sometimes lay eggs on false foxglove and plantain as well.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

The Spring Azure is a captivating butterfly species you might encounter in Illinois. Exhibiting variance in its color, it truly is a beauty to behold.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is versatile, occupying a range of habitats from open woods to city parks.
  • Appearance: Spring Azures display a breathtaking range of blue hues, often with a silvery underside punctuated with specks of black.
  • Size: They are rather petite, boasting a wingspan of merely 1 to 1.25 inches (2.54 to 3.17 cm).
  • Diet: In the caterpillar stage, they feed on flower buds, whereas adult butterflies enjoy the nectar of several plants.
  • Reproduction: Like many butterflies, Spring Azures lay their eggs on host plants in spring, which hatch into caterpillars later.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of these butterflies is typically around one year.
  • Host Plants: Flowering shrubs like blueberries and dogwoods serve as host plants for Spring Azures.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail, or Papilio cresphontes, is one of the most distinctive butterflies residing in Illinois.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll largely find this species in deciduous forests, citrus orchards, and gardens.
  • Appearance: It has yellow and black markings, often likened to a checkerboard pattern, and a tail-like appendage on each lower wing.
  • Size: The wingspan reaches approximately 5-6 inches (13-16 cm), making it one of the largest butterflies in North America.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers like honeysuckle and lantana.
  • Reproduction: The females lay single, round, yellow-green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average life cycle from egg to adult is 6-8 weeks.
  • Host Plants: These butterflies are partial to citrus trees, mainly wild lime, rue, and prickly ash. It’s where they lay their eggs and their caterpillars feed on the leaves.

Get yourself to Illinois forests and gardens. You’ll be amazed at the size and elegance of this creature.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is a captivating butterfly species you might come across in Illinois. this species is commonly sighted from May to September.

It is most active during the day, primarily early in the morning and later in the day.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

Let’s get to know it a bit more:

  • Habitat: Typically found in meadows, fields, and near forests.
  • Appearance: Larvae are green with yellow spots while adults are brown with silver spots under the wings.
  • Size: They generally have a wingspan of 1.6 to 2.5 inches (4-6 cm).
  • Diet: Caterpillars feed on locust and wisteria, while adults enjoy nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the host plants and the emerging caterpillars create shelters for themselves.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live for about a month.
  • Host Plants: They prefer locust species, false indigo (Baptisia spp.), and wisteria.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is an intriguing butterfly that you’ll find in Illinois. It has certain distinctive features that make it stand out among the 30 butterfly species in the area.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll usually find them in forests or neighboring fields.
  • Appearance: Their wings are a dark, iridescent blue or black. Females have a slight hindwing white spot.
  • Size: They flaunt a wingspan ranging from 3.5 – 4.5 inches (9 – 11 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, they feed on nectar. Caterpillars feed on Dutchman’s pipe and other vine plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny, reddish-brown eggs on host plants. The caterpillars that emerge are red-brown with fleshy, tentacle-like appendages.
  • Lifespan: Like most butterflies, they live for approximately 2-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: They commonly use Dutchman’s pipe, a vine with heart-shaped leaves. Pipevine, hence aptly named Pipevine Swallowtail, is also a favored plant.


Now that you have been introduced to 30 of the stunning butterfly species in Illinois, we hope you’ll take some time to appreciate their diversity and beauty.

Remember, these delicate creatures play a fundamental role in our ecosystem. Let us know which butterfly is your favorite in the comments below.

Butterflies   Updated: August 4, 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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *