30 Butterfly Species in Kansas

In this exploration, you’ll discover the diverse beauty of 30 butterfly species found in Kansas.

From the Black Swallowtail to the Giant Swallowtail, your knowledge and appreciation of these critters will flutter to new heights.

Get ready to transform your understanding of this vibrant corner of nature.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail is an exquisite and common butterfly species found in Kansas. It’s distinguished by its striking colors and patterns.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is adaptable and can be seen thriving in numerous habitats such as meadows, gardens, and pastures.
  • Appearance: It sports a fascinating mix of black and yellow spots on its wings, with a pair of distinct tails on the hind wings.
  • Size: The average wing span ranges from 2.7 – 4.1 inches (6.8 – 10.4 cm).
  • Diet: Caterpillars feed on plants while adults prefer nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which pupate into chrysalises, and finally, emerge as butterflies.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is relatively short, ranging from 10 to 12 days.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred plants are from the carrot family, including Queen Anne’s Lace and dill. Remarkably, these caterpillars possess a unique organ that emits a foul smell when disturbed, to deter predators.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye, scientifically known as Junonia coenia, is a regular visitor in gardens and fields throughout Kansas.

Common Buckeye butterfly

Here’s what sets this species apart:

  • Habitat: Found in open, sunny habitats such as fields, meadows, or gardens.
  • Appearance: Brown wings with eye-like patterns, and orange and white spots along the edges.
  • Size: Grown adults reach approximately 2 inches (5 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult Buckeyes feed on nectar of various flowering plants, while the caterpillars prefer the leaves of plants in the snapdragon family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants. Caterpillars undergo metamorphosis to become adults.
  • Lifespan: A common lifespan is about two weeks for adults, longer for the caterpillar and pupa stages.
  • Host Plants: They prefer plantain, snapdragons, and members of the verbena family.

Observing this butterfly can be a special treat for anyone, owing to its peculiar patterns and colors. It certainly is one of Kansas’ gems.

California Sister (Adelpha bredowii)

The California Sister butterfly spices up the Kansas landscape.

California Sister butterfly

Let’s look at its defining features:

  • Habitat: Forest edges and open woodlands are its favored places to flutter.
  • Appearance: Majestic in design, it has wings of black, orange, and white hues.
  • Size: An average wingspread of 2 to 2 3/4 inch (51 to 70 mm) sets it apart.
  • Diet: Love for tree sap, rotting fruit, and dung make up its unique diet.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the top of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for about one month.
  • Host Plants: Deciduous oaks (Quercus) define the choice of their host plants.

Even though it’s named after the warm-weather state, the California Sister enjoys Kansas’ change of seasons.

Eastern Tailed Blue (Cupido comyntas)

The Eastern Tailed Blue is a small and vibrant butterfly you may come across in Kansas.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

This little beauty has distinct features and behaviors:

  • Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats like meadows, open woods, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Males are slate blue with narrow black borders, and females brown with orange spots near tail.
  • Size: They are small, usually having a wingspan of 1 to 1.25 inches (2.5 – 3.2 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies love to feed on the nectar of flowers like Shepherds needle and asters.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs singly on flowers, which become caterpillars then pupate to butterflies.
  • Lifespan: As adults, they live for about a week, while the whole life cycle lasts about a month.
  • Host Plants: The preferred host plants are leguminous plants, such as clover and beans.

With delicate wings and a soft flight, the Eastern Tailed Blue is a magnificent sight to behold.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is a captivating butterfly species you’re likely to encounter across Kansas.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Painted Ladies are extremely adaptable, inhabiting both rural and urban spaces. They love sunny open areas, and so are often seen fluttering around parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: They are renowned for their orange, black, and white markings. The underwing is characterized by a patchwork of complex patterns and colors.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges from 2 to 2.9 inches (roughly 5 to 7.3 cm), making them relatively medium-sized among butterflies.
  • Diet: They sip nectar from a wide variety of flowers, but have a preference for thistle, hollyhock and aster.
  • Reproduction: They lay eggs one at a time on host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which eventually transform into lovely adult butterflies.
  • Lifespan: The adult Painted Lady typically lives for 2 weeks in summer. However, if they emerge in autumn, they may live up to 6 months.
  • Host Plants: Their larval host plants mostly include various types of thistles, mallow and hollyhock.

Monarch (Danaus plexipus)

Monarch is a renowned butterfly species. You’ve undoubtedly seen this popular visitor in your Kansas backyard.

Noted for its migration covering thousands of miles, it’s deeply admired and studied.


  • Habitat: Monarchs thrive in open fields. They migrate to Mexico during winter.
  • Appearance: Distinguishable bright orange wings with black veins. There are white spots on the border too.
  • Size: Impressive wingspan of about 3.7-4.1 inches (9.4-10.4cm).
  • Diet: The adult Monarchs feed on nectar while caterpillars munch on milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. The tiny caterpillar transforms into a marvelous butterfly in about 4 weeks.
  • Lifespan: An average Monarch lives for 2-6 weeks. But the generation migrating to Mexico might live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed is the plant of choice for both eggs and caterpillars.

A beautiful species and a natural wonder, isn’t it? It’s quite an experience to see the Monarch butterfly in action.

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

The White Peacock or Anartia jatrophae is a fascinating species to discuss. One can find this butterfly primarily in warm, open, weedy areas like local parks and gardens.

White Peacock butterfly

  • Habitat: Places rich in vegetation, specifically at low altitudes. Environments like subtropical forests and marshes are their usual spots.
  • Appearance: White Peacocks are unique, possessing a striking pattern of white, brown, and orange in their wings, with eye-like spots enhancing their gorgeous design.
  • Size: Averages about 2 to 2.8 inches (5 to 7 cm) in wing span.
  • Diet: Rely mostly on the nectar from flowers, particularly Lantana.
  • Reproduction: Their breeding cycle is year-round. The female lays pale-green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: As adults, they can live up to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: They prefer plants like Water Hyssop and Ruellia for their larvae.

This graceful creature is a visual treat to anyone lucky enough to spot them.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Meet the Viceroy butterfly, an orange and black beauty you’ll find fluttering in various habitats across Kansas.


  • Habitat: Viceroys thrive in wet areas; think marshes, swamps, and ponds. They are also spotted along river edges.
  • Appearance: Their wings boast orange and black patterns, mimicking the Monarch’s looks. This act of disguise keeps predators at bay.
  • Size: A sizeable creature, Viceroys stretch 2.5-3.1 inches (6.4–7.9 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: What’s on the menu? It’s a mix of nectar from flowers for the adults, and leaves of trees and shrubs for the caterpillars.
  • Reproduction: The female lays eggs singly on the leaves of the host plants. The caterpillars that hatch are known to be solitary.
  • Lifespan: A typical Viceroy will complete its life cycle in under a year.
  • Host Plants: The Viceroy is partial to willows, poplars, and cottonwoods. These plants form their primary diet during the larval stage.

Isn’t the Viceroy butterfly a fascinating creature? Each detail of its lifestyle makes it a true wonder of Kansas’s wildlife.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Lady is one of the butterfly species that graces Kansas with its presence.

American Lady butterfly

Here’s some interesting information about it:

  • Habitat: It makes its home in multiple habitats, including parks, gardens, and meadows.
  • Appearance: Sporting a predominantly orange color, highlighted with black and white patterns, it’s a sight to behold.
  • Size: The wingspan ranges from 1.75 to 2.75 inches (4.4 to 7 cm), quite petite.
  • Diet: Adult American Ladies fancy nectar from a variety of plants. Caterpillars munch on plants like Everlasting.
  • Reproduction: They lay eggs on the underside of host plant leaves. Several generations are produced in a year.
  • Lifespan: Adult American Ladies usually live for 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Specific plants preferred by caterpillars for food include Pearly Everlasting, Burdock, and Plantain. In essence, the American Lady butterfly is a fascinating creature, regularly adding a dash of color to Kansas.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of the Hackberry Emperor.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly really loves wooded communities, so if you’re near forests or woodlands, keep an eye out.
  • Appearance: Sporting a color palette of brown and cream with black eye spots, it’s a pleasant sight during the warmer months.
  • Size: Not too big, not too small, it measures about 1.6 to 2.8 inches (4 to 7 cm) in spread.
  • Diet: A variance specialist, it goes for tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and occasionally nectar.
  • Reproduction: As a true-love believer, it reproduces once a year, laying its eggs singly on hackberries, its host plant.
  • Lifespan: Living life in the fast lane, its adult stage lasts about 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Its larvae find Hackberry trees particularly appetizing, exclusively feeding on them before the transformation into adult butterflies.

Now you know a little more about this characterful Kansas resident. Let’s move on to another fascinating butterfly.

Great Southern White (Ascia monuste)

If you look close enough, you may spot the majestic ‘Great Southern White.’ Seemingly simple, but with intricate details, this butterfly is a visual delight.

Great Southern White butterfly

  • Habitat: Mostly found in coastal areas and marshlands.
  • Appearance: They flaunt white wings with light grey tips. Females bear black spots on their forewings, adding more charm to their beauty.
  • Size: On average, their wingspan measures 1.8-2.6 inches (45.7-66.2 millimeters).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed primarily on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of host leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for an average of 6 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae feed on plants like Toothbrush Tree and Sea Rocket.

This delicate creature is a marvel. Its very existence enhances the beauty of Kansas’ diverse ecosystem.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

The Queen is an eye-catching sight around the prairie lands in Kansas. This butterfly species draws attention instantly due to its stunning appearance.

Queen Butterfly

  • Habitat: Mainly found in meadow and prairie environments.
  • Appearance: Glamorous dark brown wings featuring white spots and a subtle, yet impressive tinge of orange.
  • Size: Wingspan measures 2.75 to 3.5 inches (7-9 cm), making it a moderately large butterfly.
  • Diet: Feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers including Milkweeds and Spanish Needles.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaf buds or the topmost leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Queens can live up to two months. This butterfly undergoes four stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Host Plants: Uses various species of Milkweeds as host plants as they provide the necessary nutrients for growth and development.

This butterfly species undergoes annual migrations which are truly a sight to behold. The next time you’re in Kansas, try to catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Embrace the knowledge of the Clouded Sulphur, a butterfly species that’s known to scuttle across the meadows and vast fields of Kansas.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: This species gambol amongst gardens and open habitats, such as meadows and fields.
  • Appearance: Set your sights on a butterfly draped in yellow or cream-colored wings, often spotted with a bright, sunny tinge in females and light-grey in males.
  • Size: These multicolored marvels measure roughly 32-54 mm, or 1.3 – 2.2 inches across their winsome wings.
  • Diet: Savory nectar serves as their choice food, often taken from a wide variety of flowering plants including asters and legumes.
  • Reproduction: Typically, female lay green, spherical eggs, singly on host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: However, their journey is swift, lasting only around a week in their adult form.
  • Host Plants: Alfalfa, white clover, and other legumes serve as their primary nursery, also referred to as host plants. Enjoy the delights of spotting a Clouded Sulphur in the wild, a thimble of color in nature’s tapestry.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) is an easily recognizable butterfly due to unique features.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: Widespread throughout North America, this butterfly can adapt to various environments, including fields, forests, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Best recognized for the silver-white spot on the underside of its hind wings, it exhibits shades of brown and rust on the dorsum.
  • Size: This specie is considerably large for a skipper, with a wingspan ranging between 1.75-2.5 inches (4.5-6.3 cm).
  • Diet: Adult silver-spotted skippers favor nectar from flowers like the red clover, everlasting pea and common milkweed. The caterpillar feeds on legumes.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay single eggs on host plants, particularly legumes.
  • Lifespan: The adult silver-spotted skipper has a life span of about 10-20 days.
  • Host Plants: Black locust is a favorite host plant of the caterpillars, but other legume plants are also accepted.

Its unmistakable appearance and transformation process make the Silver-spotted Skipper a fascinating creature in Kansas.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The Great Purple Hairstreak, a colorful lepidopteran creature, is a sight to behold.

Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus corcorani

  • Habitat: It frequents a broad range of habitats, from pine forests to urban gardens.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is notable for its bright blue body and the two large, black, and orange-tipped tails on its hindwings.
  • Size: Quite large, often reaches a wingspan of 2 inches (5 cm).
  • Diet: Flowers are their main source of food. They particularly favor mistletoe blooms.
  • Reproduction: The females lay their eggs on mistletoe trees, which act as host plants for the caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: A short lifespan of about one month.
  • Host Plants: Mistletoe, which sustains the larvae with necessary nutrients.

Remember, this is only one of the many species of butterflies that call Kansas home. Each carries a unique blend of beauty and elegance, and their presence enriches the state’s natural landscape.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur, or Colias eurytheme, is one of the most common butterflies in Kansas.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: They inhabit a wide variety of open areas, including fields, meadows, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Males are orange or yellow with a wide black border on the upperside of the wings. Females can either be yellow or white, often with faint spots.
  • Size: Typically, their wingspan varies from 1.3 to 2.25 inches, which equates to around 3.3 to 5.7 cm.
  • Diet: As adults, these butterflies feed primarily on nectar from a variety of flowers. Catterpillars prefer a diet of clovers and legume.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay single, pale-green eggs on the host plant, usually alfalfa or white clover.
  • Lifespan: Orange Sulphur butterflies can live up to a year in their southern range, but only a few weeks in the north.
  • Host Plants: Its primary host plants include alfalfa, white clover, and other species in the pea family.

Julia Heliconian (Dryas julia)

Meet the Julia Heliconian, a fascinating butterfly species native to Kansas.

Julia Heliconian butterfly

  • Habitat: They are found mainly in tropical and subtropical locations, noted for their adaptability in various environments.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is distinguished by its vibrant orange wings, with black edges adding a striking contrast.
  • Size: With a wingspan between 3.1 and 3.5 inches (7.8 to 8.9 centimeters), it’s not your typical petite butterfly.
  • Diet: They delight in feasting on nectar from flowers, often preferring red or blue ones.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs singly on the host plants, which eventually hatch into larva.
  • Lifespan: The Julia Heliconian tends to enjoy a longer lifespan than most butterflies, living for almost 2 months.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillar primarily feeds on Passionvine leaves. The ubiquitousness of this plant in their habitat contributes to their survival.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a fascinating butterfly species you might stumble upon in Kansas. This unique butterfly might just stun you with its captivating beauty.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Primarily, these butterflies thrive in deciduous woodlands, city parks, or even backyard gardens.
  • Appearance: With colorful azures and black stripes mimicking a tiger’s skin, these butterflies are a treat for the eye. What further sets them off is the unique pattern of yellow and black spots along the edges of their lower wing.
  • Size: Usually measuring around 7.9 to 14 cm (3.1 to 5.5 in), they are quite noticeable.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies drink nectar from various flowers. The caterpillars feed exclusively on leaves of trees and shrubs.
  • Reproduction: Females lay greenish-white eggs on host plants. The hatched caterpillars have a large appetite, predominantly feeding on tulip tree leaves and wild cherry.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly lives about a month, whereas the caterpillar and pupa stages combined last up to two months.
  • Host Plants: Favored hosts are Wild Cherry and Tulip Trees. Other trees and shrubs are also consumed to a lesser extent.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

“Mourning Cloak,” or “Nymphalis antiopa” is a species lush with fascinating features.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: it thrives in various environments including forests, parks, and even suburban areas.
  • Appearance: The butterfly is known for its velvety wing pattern. Outer portion of the wings feature bright yellowish edge bordered by a blue line. A band of iridescent blue specks ornaments the inner edge.
  • Size: This species can grow to impressive sizes. Wingspans range from 2.25 to 4 inches (5.72 to 10.16 cm).
  • Diet: Prefers tree sap, especially of oaks. It enjoys rotting fruit and dung too. Rarely feeds on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Female lays ring-like clusters of eggs on host plant stems. The caterpillars are spiky and black with white spots.
  • Lifespan: Lives up to 12 months, which is notably long for a butterfly.
  • Host Plants: Utilize a variety of plants, but they particularly favor willows, elms, and poplars.

Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

The Fiery Skipper, a fascinating butterfly species with a lively personality, goes by the formal name Hylephila phyleus.

Fiery Skipper butterfly

Let’s dive into the world of this creature:

  • Habitat: The fiery skipper thrives in open, sunny areas. You’ll spot them in meadows, gardens, and lawns.
  • Appearance: They boast a vibrant orange-yellow color with black brands across the fore-wings and spots on the hind.
  • Size: These creatures are small, averaging about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult skippers drink nectar from blooming flowers, favoring flat-topped clusters.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on grass blades, which leads us to…
  • Host Plants: They opt for a variety of grasses like Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass.
  • Lifespan: Adult fiery skippers have a lifespan of around 20 days.

Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to spot and appreciate the fiery skipper next time you cross paths.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Zebra Swallowtails are quite fascinating.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

Check out some fascinating facts below:

  • Habitat: They typically reside in moist, lowland woods, and near streams.
  • Appearance: Profound for its distinct black and white striped pattern and long, pointy tails.
  • Size: Their wingspan is around 2.5 to 4 inches(6.35 to 10.16 centimeters). Quite magnificent, wouldn’t you agree?
  • Diet: Mainly, they opt for the nectar of various flowers, and males drink from mud puddles.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of pawpaw trees.
  • Lifespan: Adults live around six weeks in the summer broods.
  • Host Plants: Their favorite are primarily pawpaw trees.

The Zebra Swallowtail, despite its short existence, displays one of nature’s more striking designs. It forms an integral part of Kansas’s butterfly population, adding a monochrome tone to the vibrant colors.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral, scientifically known as Vanessa Atalanta, is one of Kansas’s spectacular butterfly species.

red admiral butterfly

Here’s what makes it stand out:

  • Habitat: Red Admirals inhabit a range of environments from sunny fields to shaded woodlands.
  • Appearance: They boast a striking contrast of colors; black wings fringed with vibrant red bands and dotted with white spots.
  • Size: These butterflies are modestly sized, with wingspans typically measuring between 1.75-2.25 inches (4.4-5.7 cm).
  • Diet: They feed on a variety of nectar-producing plants, tree sap, and rotting fruits.
  • Reproduction: In warmer months, female Red Admirals lay their eggs on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: Though the adults live for only a few weeks, the species is multivoltine, producing several generations in a year.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars of the Red Admiral primarily feed on nettles, making these plants essential to their lifecycle.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

Let’s talk about the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae). This species is widespread across Kansas and much of North America.


  • Habitat: Cabbage Whites are commonly found in gardens, meadows, and open spaces.
  • Appearance: Cabbage Whites are characterized by their white or off-white wings, dotted with small black spots. Underneath, their wings are pale green.
  • Size: These butterflies reach a size between 1.5 to 2.25 inches (3.8 to 5.7 cm).
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs individually on the underside of host leaves.
  • Lifespan: Quite brief, similar to most butterflies, life expectancy is around two weeks in summer.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed primarily on plants from the cabbage family, including kale, arugula, and radishes. This is the reason for its common name.

Understanding the life and habits of the Cabbage White can help ensure the health and diversity of your local ecosystem!

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary, or Agraulis vanillae, boasts an enchanting bright orange color that’s sure to catch your eye in the heartland of Kansas.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: This butterfly species thrives in warmer climates and is mostly found particularly in fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Sporting stunning orange wings with black markings and silver spots on the underwing, they are a visual treat.
  • Size: The adult butterfly spans about 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar from flowers such as Lantana, Cordia, and garden favorites like zinnias supply their diet.
  • Reproduction: Generally, females lay the eggs on passion vines that caterpillars later feast upon.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live from 2 to 3 weeks in summer. However, the last generation of each year lives through the winter.
  • Host Plants: Passion vines are their primary host plants, especially for the caterpillar stage, where they acquire toxins as a defense mechanism.

Common Mestra (Mestra amymone)

Discover the meeting of evolution and beauty in the Common Mestra. This butterfly species holds the power to charm anyone with its distinctive style.

Common mestra

  • Habitat: You will commonly spot these in subtropical areas and marshy wetlands. Particularly, you might spot them along the river banks of Kansas.
  • Appearance: It flaunts a striking color blend of brown and orange. The contrast between the brightly colored veins and the dark body is a sight worth seeing.
  • Size: The butterfly measures between 1.5 to 2 inches in wingspan – or 3.8cm – 5cm in metric terms.
  • Diet: Common Mestra butterflies primarily feed on flower nectar. They have a special preference for sunflower, daisy, and aster nectars.
  • Reproduction: Every year, they lay tiny green eggs on host plants during the spring and summer seasons.
  • Lifespan: Typically, they live for around one month.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae feed mainly on the leaves of the Nasturtium family. This includes watercress and shepherd’s purse plants.

Enjoy the brief yet fascinating life of this multi-colored beauty with your own eyes.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple is a remarkable butterfly species native to Kansas.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: Mostly found in deciduous woodlands and forest edges. They have a broad geographic range, also scattered through parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: They boast an array of colors. At first glance, deep blue or black with red spots on the underside.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges from 7.6 to 12.7 cm or 3 to 5 inches.
  • Diet: Adult Red-spotted Purples are drawn to tree sap, rotting fruit, carrion, and dung. However, caterpillars munch on the leaves of specific trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on host plant leaves. The healthy population of these butterflies owes its existence to the several broods they produce each year.
  • Lifespan: They manage to live for about 20 days or less in the wild as adults.
  • Host Plants: Wild cherry, birch, poplar, cottonwood, and willow serve as their primary eating spots.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper, scientifically named Lycaena phlaeas, is a butterfly species that can often be seen in Kansas.

American Copper butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are typically found in open spaces. They prefer disturbed areas like vacant lots, lawns, and road edges.
  • Appearance: As the name suggests, they bear coppery-orange color on their forewings. The undersides are patterned with gray and orange spots.
  • Size: The American Copper is relatively small, with a wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: They feed on nectar from flowers such as clover and dandelions. The larvae feed on sorrel and other related plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Most adults live for a few weeks, with 2-3 generations every year.
  • Host Plants: The larval host plants are mostly from the sorrel family.

In Kansas, you can usually find these butterflies from the end of April through October. They’re quite a sight to behold!

Western Pygmy-Blue (B. exilis)

Get ready to be fascinated by the tiny Western Pygmy-Blue (B. exilis), the smallest butterfly in North America.

Western Pygmy Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: You can find them across panhandles and south-western regions of Kansas. They prefer open spaces with saltbushes.
  • Appearance: Their beautiful wings have a base color of blue, assorted brilliantly with orange spots on the outer margins.
  • Size: Despite being small, with a wingspan of about 1 inch (25 mm) only, their exquisite coloring is a sight to behold.
  • Diet: Adult Western Pygmy-Blues sip flower nectar, while the larvae feed on saltbush leaves.
  • Reproduction: They can have multiple generations in a year, and lay pale green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: On average, their life span could be a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The eggs are usually laid on the leaves of saltbush plants. These become the caterpillar’s food until they pupate.

Don’t be fooled by their size, these tiny wonders make up for it with their vibrance.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Gray Hairstreak is a surprising sight with a gorgeous grayish hue, which is distinctive among the 30 butterfly species in Kansas.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: It is extremely adaptable, living in diverse environments from forests to deserts.
  • Appearance: Noted for its slender, grayish-blue wings with thin, black borders. Features small, red spots near the tail.
  • Size: Quite small, wingspans range from 1 to 1.4 inches (2.5 to 3.5 cm).
  • Diet : The adults feed on nectar from a variety of wildflowers, while caterpillars eat the flowers and fruits of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on flowers of host plants. Caterpillars then feed on these until maturity.
  • Lifespan: Adults live about a week after emergence, and the whole life cycle takes 1-2 months.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars consume many plants, but commonly seen on beans, mallow, or buckwheat.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is one of the most striking butterfly species native to Kansas.

giant swallowtail butterfly

Here are some quick facts about them:

  • Habitat: They can be found in various environments, including forests, meadows, and residential gardens.
  • Appearance: They have distinctive black and yellow bands with tail-like extensions on their hind wings.
  • Size: They are sizable, with a wingspan of 4 to 7 inches (10 to 17 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies primarily feed on nectar from flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live around a month, while the entire life cycle can last up to two months.
  • Host Plants: Citrus trees are the most common host plants, but they also favor prickly ash and rue.

No doubt, the Giant Swallowtail is one of the most impressive butterflies you could encounter in your Kansas garden.


In conclusion, Kansas is a habitat full of diverse and magnificent butterfly species.

Each species has its own unique features and behaviors, making butterfly-watching a truly refreshing and educational experience.

Feel free to leave a comment about your encounters with these winged beauties.

Butterflies   Updated: August 7, 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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