30 Butterfly Species in Massachusetts

In this article, you’ll become acquainted with 30 butterfly species native to Massachusetts. We’ll explore their distinct traits, beauty, and roles in the ecological balance.

By the end, you will appreciate these incredible creatures, and hopefully, bring this knowledge on your next Massachusetts adventure!

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Meet the Zebra Swallowtail, a distinct butterfly for its zebra-like pattern.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Primarily they live in wetlands and riverine habitats. In Massachusetts, they’re often found near stands of pawpaw trees.
  • Appearance: Their wings showcase a dazzling mix of black and white stripes. Additionally, they have a red mark on the lower part of their wings.
  • Size: Their wings can span between 2.75 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm).
  • Diet: They feast primarily on flower nectar. The larvae, however, rely on young pawpaw leaves.
  • Reproduction: During spring, females lay eggs on the underside of pawpaw leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adult zebra swallowtails live around 6 weeks on average.
  • Host Plants: Pawpaw trees are their host plants. The plants contain chemicals that, once ingested by the larvae, provide a toxic defense against predators.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

You’ll find the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) making its home largely in deciduous woodlands. Its varied habitats also include marshes, prairies, and even suburban gardens.

Appearance-wise, this butterfly species shows off brownish-orange wings with black spots. Silver spangles mark the underwings; hence the name, “Great Spangled.”

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: Deciduous woodlands, prairies, marshes, suburban gardens
  • Appearance: Brownish-orange wings with black spots, silver spangles on the underwings
  • Size: It boasts an impressive wingspan, measuring 2.5-4 inches (6.4-10.2 cm)
  • Diet: Adult Fritillaries are fond of flower nectar, while the caterpillars eat violets
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs in the fall, which later hatch into caterpillars in the spring
  • Lifespan: Adults generally live 2-3 weeks, but some have been known to live up to a month
  • Host Plants: Violets are the host plants, essential for the survival of their caterpillars.

Observe these resilient butterflies flutter around in the summer heat, adding a touch of elegant beauty to their surroundings.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

The Queen, or Danaus gilippus, is an enchanting butterfly species that calls Massachusetts home.

Queen Butterfly

  • Habitat: Queens often favor open and cultivated areas, including fields, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Sporting a striking orange-brown color with black borders dotted with white spots, the Queen’s beauty is unrivalled.
  • Size: In terms of size, this butterfly boasts a wingspan between 2.75 to 3.5 inches (7 to 8.9 cm), making it quite the sight to behold.
  • Diet: Their dietary preferences include nectar of various flowers, with a special fondness for milkweed.
  • Reproduction: The Queen butterfly has different generations in a year, with females laying cream-colored eggs on their host plants.
  • Lifespan: The Queen’s lifespan can vary significantly, ranging from a few weeks up to several months, depending on the generation.
  • Host Plants: The Queen butterfly mainly relies on milkweed for its larvae, accounting for its fondness for these plants in both diet and reproduction.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

You might already be familiar with the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. This species is highly common, not just in Massachusetts but worldwide.

These butterflies boast of a charm that is hard to resist.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Painted Ladies are incredibly adaptable, making homes from city gardens to the countryside.
  • Appearance: They exhibit a stunning spectrum of orange, black, and white hues. The underwings, especially, are intricately patterned.
  • Size: With an approximate wingspan of 2 – 2.8 inches (5 – 7 cm), they make for a memorable sight.
  • Diet: Adults are not picky. Nectar from various flowering plants suits them.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants where caterpillars feed upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live 2 – 3 weeks, but some survive for about a year.
  • Host Plants: They depend on a wide assortment of host plants. Thistles, hollyhocks, and mallows are just a few preferred choices.

This all-round versatility is probably why they’ve established themselves far and wide.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is indeed a fascinating butterfly species.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Here are some quick facts you might want to know:

  • Habitat: They are found in a variety of settings, including forests, swamps, and suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: The name, “tiger,” is due to the dark stripes that mimic that of a tiger’s on its yellow or black wings.
  • Size: One of the larger species, they range from 3.1 to 5.5 inches (80 to 140mm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies mainly feed on the nectar of flowers, while the caterpillars are leaf eaters.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single green eggs on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for around 10 to 20 days.
  • Host Plants: The breed of choice includes willow, cherry, tulip trees and poplars.

This butterfly is, without doubt, one of the many spectacular sights that Massachusetts offers. Don’t miss it if you’re in the area!

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a fascinating creature to observe. Known for their distinct behaviors, let’s explore more about these species.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive mainly in forested areas, near its favored host, the hackberry tree.
  • Appearance: Hackberry Emperors bear intricate patterns of brown and white spots on their wings, making them easily recognizable.
  • Size: Adult Hackberry Emperors usually measure between 1.75 and 2.5 inches (44-63 mm) across, rendering them a medium-sized species.
  • Diet: The diet of these butterflies is quite diverse, including tree sap, rotten fruits, and even animal droppings!
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of host leaves, usually in the summer.
  • Lifespan: Most adults only live 2-3 weeks, but the last brood of the year can hibernate, living up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: The larvae depend majorly on hackberry trees, hence the name. The caterpillars feed on the tree leaves.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper can be easily spotted in Massachusetts. Answering the question “where do I find them”? They thrive primarily in their preferred habitat like fields, gardens, and meadows.

Typically, the American Copper catches your eye with a unique appearance of bright copper on the upper side of their wings with dark spots. When the wings are closed, the underwings exhibit numerous dark spots on a light-colored background.

American Copper butterfly

Now, let’s get to the numbers! The American Copper is relatively small, with a wingspan reaching just an inch (2.54 cm).

Their food preferences are notably simple, the adults sip nectar from flowers like yarrow or shepherd’s needle.

Delving into their reproduction, females lay eggs on the underside of leaves, especially on sheep sorrel, a common roadside weed.

Their recorded lifespan in the wild is about a year.

Here are some key characteristics rounded-up for easy reference:

  • Habitat: Meadows, fields, and gardens
  • Appearance: Bright copper wings with dark spots
  • Size: Wingspan of approximately 1 inch (2.54 cm)
  • Diet: Nectar from flowers like yarrow
  • Reproduction: Eggs laid on underside of leaves, often sheep sorrel
  • Lifespan: Up to 1 year
  • Host Plants: Sheep sorrel and other roadside weeds

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral, scientifically referred to as Vanessa atalanta, is one of the beautiful butterflies you’ll find in Massachusetts.

red-admiral butterfly

Let’s learn some quick facts about this captivating species.

  • Habitat: They are not picky and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including parks, gardens and even vacant lots.
  • Appearance: This species sports dark wings with striking orange-red bands and white spots on the tips.
  • Size: They average about 2 to 2.5 inches (5.1 to 6.4 cm) in wingspan, a medium-sized butterfly by most standards.
  • Diet: As adults, they feed primarily on nectar from various flowers and fermenting fruits.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants where caterpillars will feed upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adult Red Admirals have a lifespan of about two weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: For reproduction, they prefer members of the nettle family (Urticaceae), a primary food for the caterpillars.

The Red Admiral adds to the wonderful biodiversity of Massachusetts with its vibrant markings and generalist ecology.

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

Known locally as the Checkered White, Pontia protodice are classic butterfly species commonly found in Massachusetts.

Checkered White butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies favor open habitats, such as fields, meadows, and roadsides. Anywhere with bright sunlight and nectar-rich flowers.
  • Appearance: Easily recognized, these white butterflies sport an array of dark spots and actually display a checker-like pattern on their wings.
  • Size: They typically have a wingspan of 1.5 to 2.5 inches (38-63 mm).
  • Diet: Adults are fond of nectar, while caterpillars feed on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females can lay hundreds of tiny, pale green eggs on their designated host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live around two weeks, spending their brief lives feeding, mating, and laying eggs.
  • Host Plants: Mustard and cabbage family plants serve as popular choices for egg-laying.

Encountering the Checkered White can turn a regular day into a magical one. Their delicate ballet in the summer sun is not something you’ll soon forget.

Their life cycle, though short, is packed with the stuff of fairy tales.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

The Small Tortoiseshell is one of the most common butterfly species you will find in Massachusetts. It’s a species not just known for its vibrant appearance, but also its adaptability.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers open fields, gardens, and meadows.
  • Appearance: Exhibits a distinct pattern of bright orange and black markings with blue crescents near the borders of the wings.
  • Size: Achieves a wingspan of about 2 inches (5 cm), making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Mostly feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers, showing a preference towards thistles.
  • Reproduction: May produce 2-3 broods per year, with each female laying hundreds of eggs on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Can live up to a year, spending most of the winter hibernating.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed primarily on nettles, making these plants an essential part of their lifecycle.

This species’ adaptability and widespread availability make it one of the staples of the butterfly population of Massachusetts.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

This butterfly species, the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), is an exemplary example of commonplace beauty. You’ve probably seen them before as they are quite common in Massachusetts.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: Commonly found in open areas, such as fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Easy to recognize due to their white or pale green color. They also have slight black markings on their wings.
  • Size: They are pretty small, roughly 1.3 to 2 inches (3.3 to 5 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: The adults mainly feed on the nectar from various flowers, while the caterpillars munch on plants, primarily from the mustard family.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay tiny yellow eggs underneath the leaves of suitable host plants.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live for one to two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Host plants include cabbage and other plants of the mustard family. That’s why common names for this species are ‘Cabbage White’ or ‘Small White’.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarchs, scientifically known as Danaus plexippus, are among the most popular butterflies in Massachusetts, widely recognized for their striking orange and black wings.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

  • Habitat: Monarchs span across America, favoring open fields and gardens.
  • Appearance: Possessing vibrant orange wings adorned with black veins and outlined in black with white spots, these creatures are truly a sight to behold.
  • Size: With a wing span of 3.5 to 4 in (8.9 to 10.2 cm), Monarchs are reasonably large butterflies.
  • Diet: Adult Monarchs primarily feed on the nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Monarchs lay their eggs on the underbelly of milkweed leaves, their sole host plant.
  • Lifespan: Adults live typically for 2 to 6 weeks, while the migration generation can live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed stands as the exclusive host plant for Monarch caterpillars, providing essential nutrients and a safe breeding ground.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly is a fascinating creature that you may find in Massachusetts.


  • Habitat: The Viceroy prefers wetlands and marshes, where its host plants, the willows, and poplars, are abundant.
  • Appearance: At first glance, one could mistake it for a Monarch due to the similar bright orange color with black veins on its wings. However, a unique black line across the hindwing sets it apart.
  • Size: The Viceroy’s wingspan usually measures 2.5-3.2 inches (64-81 mm), making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: As larvae, they feed on willow and poplar leaves. In their adult stage, they drink nectar from various flowers and sometimes feast on rotting fruits as well.
  • Reproduction: Viceroys mate multiple times and lay their eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan typically ranges from two to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: Common host plants include willow and poplar trees.

This butterfly species is not only visually appealing, but it also plays a vital role in pollination.

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)

The White Admiral, scientifically referred to as Limenitis arthemis arthemis, is one majestic butterfly species you can spot in Massachusetts. It is part of the larger family known as Nymphalidae.

White Admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: You can often spot this butterfly in forests or near woodland edges. They love nectaring on flowers in sunny glades.
  • Appearance: Characterised by a black body with white bands crossing the wings, this butterfly is a stunning sight.
  • Size: It is a fairly large butterfly, often measuring between 2.5-3.5 inches (6.5-9 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on nectar from flowers, while larvae feast on leaves of willow, aspen, and poplar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants. Upon hatching, caterpillars immediately start feeding.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan ranges from about 2-3 weeks for adults. Overwintering occurs in the larval stage.
  • Host Plants: The favourite hosts include plants from the willow, poplar and birch families.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail, or Papilio polyxenes, is a fascinating butterfly to observe, not least for its striking physical characteristics.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’re likely to see it in open fields, suburbs, marshes, and especially gardens.
  • Appearance: It has tuxedo-like coloring with deep black wings with yellow dots, and a dash of blue and red.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges between 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm), making it quite conspicuous among its peers.
  • Diet: Its food of choice consists of nectar from flowers such as milkweed and thistles.
  • Reproduction: The females lay spherical, cream-colored eggs on host plants’ leaves.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan, from egg to adult, lasts about a month-and-a-half.
  • Host Plants: Parsley, dill and carrot plants are among their favorites for laying eggs.

Next time you witness this striking butterfly in Massachusetts, you’ll appreciate what’s beneath the beautiful exterior. Butterfly watching gives new insights into the nature that surrounds us.

Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)

The Eastern Pine Elfin is a small, but captivating species of butterfly that you might spot if you’re lucky.

Eastern Pine Elfin - Callophrys niphon, C. F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area, Sumerduck, Virginia

Let’s try to understand these creatures a bit better:

  • Habitat: Typically found in pine forests and sandy barrens. They’re known to frequent wooded areas where their host plants, different species of pine, are abundant.
  • Appearance: Characterized by their modest grey-brown color on the upper side edged with an eye-catching white fringe. The underside is skillfully patterned with a mix of varying brown shades, patterns of lines, and dots.
  • Size: They boast a small wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm), perfect for navigating through their preferred wooded habitats.
  • Diet: The adult Elfin survives on tree sap, aphid honeydew, and sometimes nectar from forest flowers.
  • Reproduction: Their mating season falls in early spring. Females delicately lay eggs singly on the needles of host pine trees.
  • Lifespan: Exact lifespan remains uncertain but like most butterflies, they likely live for about a month as adults.
  • Host Plants: They’re fond of different pine species such as Scrub Pine, Pitch Pine, and Short-leaf Pine. The pine serves not only as their breeding ground but also as a source of food for their larvae.

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

In the vast array of butterfly species in Massachusetts, the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) occupies a niche of its own.

Unlike its moniker suggests, it’s not white but adorned with eye-catching patterns in vanilla, orange, and brown.

White Peacock butterfly

  • Habitat: Predominantly in open, moist areas such as parks, forests, and along roadsides. Prefers subtropical climates.
  • Appearance: Sports cream-colored wings with distinct orange and brown eye-looking spots.
  • Size: Boasts an impressive wingspan of 2-2.5 inches (5.08-6.35 cm).
  • Diet: Primarily nectar from flowers. Occasionally, they consume tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Females lay round, green eggs singularly on the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Usually 1 year, with some living into their second year.
  • Host Plants: Enjoys a broad range, including Ruellia, Water Hyssop, and Tropical Sage.

Despite being a common and widespread species in Massachusetts, the White Peacock is a favorite for its striking colors and captivating flight patterns.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma butterfly is indeed an interesting part of the Massachusetts’ ecosystem.

Eastern Comma butterfly

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

  • Habitat: It primarily inhabits woodlands and fields.
  • Appearance: Its orange wings are dotted with dark black spots. The underpart of their wings is quite intriguing, it’s quite a sight to see a light brown shade ornamented with a peculiar comma-shaped silver mark.
  • Size: Adult Eastern Commas range between 1.5 to 2.5 inches (about 38 to 63 mm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: The Eastern Comma feeds on tree sap, fermenting fruit and sometimes flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the host plant. The hatching caterpillar feeds on the plant until maturation.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually have a lifespan of one year.
  • Host Plants: Preferred hosts are the Elm trees and Hop vines, which provide food for caterpillars.

Appreciate this butterfly when you encounter one. You’re part of its unique existence.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

  • Habitat: Red-spotted Purples find comfort in deciduous or mixed woodlands and their fringes. They’re common near small streams and moist places.
  • Appearance: They allure us with their dazzling deep purple-blue color. Spot the orange bands on their forewings and suffused red spots on hind wings.
  • Size: They display an appreciable wingspan of 2.5–4 inches or 6.4–10.2 cm.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Diet: Adults point their preference towards decaying fruits, dung, and carrion, as odd as it may seem. Caterpillars feed on various species of trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on host leaves’ tips which turns into caterpillars later.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies make their presence felt for up to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: You can spot caterpillars feasting on Wild Cherry, Aspen, Poplar, Birch, Hawthorn, Willows, Basswood, and more.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

“Consider this marvel: the Giant Swallowtail. It’s a sight you won’t forget soon. This butterfly is well-known and highly treasured for its showy and flamboyant nature.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Mostly found in woodlands and gardens. They love the citrus groves.
  • Appearance: Distinguished by its dark brown and yellow color, it sports a striking tail-like structure.
  • Size: Among America’s largest butterfly species, they measure from 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in wing span.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on citrus leaves. As adults, they prefer nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay solitary green eggs on host leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from a few weeks to several months.
  • Host Plants: Often citrus trees; very young trees can be severely damaged by their caterpillars.

Don’t miss the chance to observe this splendid butterfly in its natural environment! Its bright colors and large size will attract your attention.”

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak is an easily recognizable butterfly species.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: You will typically find these butterflies in wooded areas and parks. They have a wide range in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Appearance: Sporting a somber color palette of dark brown wings, both bright yellow edges and iridescent blue spots give them a unique appeal.
  • Size: They measure from 2 to 4 inches, or 5 to 10 cm, a relatively large size for a butterfly.
  • Diet: Mourning Cloak butterflies feed primarily on tree sap, fruits, and only occasionally on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay large clusters of eggs on the host plant. These transform into striking spiny black caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Intriguingly, these butterflies can live up to 11 months, which is quite long for butterfly species.
  • Host Plants: Main hosts include willow, elm, and poplar trees, where caterpillars feed on the leaves to fuel their eventual transformation.

This resilient butterfly is one of the first to appear when temperatures start to warm up in spring.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Gray Hairstreak is one of the most common hairstreaks in America and can be seen in Massachusetts.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find Gray Hairstreaks in a wide range of habitats such as fields, parks, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: It boasts a greyish body, two black antennas, and an orange spot near the tails on the hind wings.
  • Size: It’s an average-sized butterfly with about an inch or two spread (2.5-5cm in length.)
  • Diet: Adults feed mainly on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: They reproduce in host plants where the female deposits her eggs.
  • Lifespan: The life cycle includes four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. It takes a month to complete the cycle.
  • Host Plants: Larva feed on a variety of plants, mainly in fabaceae family—beans, peas, and legumes. They adapt easily to other families.

Baltimore (Euphydryas phaeton)

Let’s talk about the Baltimore. By no means a regular sight in Massachusetts, this fluttering jewel stands out when spotted.

Its vibrant, checkered pattern of yellow, orange, and black can capture eyes and hearts.

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: These species thrive in damp woods, meadows, and by streams.
  • Appearance: It is characterized by its checkered pattern of black, yellow, and orange.
  • Size: Medium in size, Baltimores can reach a wingspan of 1.6-2.4 inches (4.1-6 cm).
  • Diet: As larvae, they feed on Turtlehead plants. After metamorphosis, they prefer nectar from wild flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Baltimore butterflies lay eggs in bunches underneath the leaves of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for 2 weeks and there is one generation per year.
  • Host Plants: Turtlehead, English plantain, and False foxglove act as primary host plants for Baltimore.

A sight of this butterfly is certainly a memorable one due to its distinct and beautiful coloration.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Meet the Question Mark Butterfly, one of the 30 butterfly species found in Massachusetts. It gets its name from the unique, question mark-like marking on its wing underside.

Question Mark butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in warm habitats such as forests, parks, and even backyard gardens.
  • Appearance: They’re recognized by their bold orange wings, with black and white spots and a small metallic silver question mark on their lower wings.
  • Size: Typically, they have a wingspan of 2.25 to 3 inches (5.7 to 7.6 centimeters), making them a large and noticeable species.
  • Diet: An adult Question Mark Butterfly enjoys feeding on rotting fruit, tree sap, and occasionally nectar.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on hackberries and nettles. The caterpillars emerge and feed on the plant’s leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adult Question Marks have a unique two-stage life cycle where they can survive from spring to winter, living up to nine months.
  • Host Plants: Their primary host plants are American Elm, Red Elm, and various species of nettles.

The Question Mark is another splendid member of Massachusetts’ diverse butterfly populations!

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas)

The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a species that can delight butterfly watchers.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

Here’s more about this fascinating insect:

  • Habitat: Typically, they inhabit a variety of open areas, like meadows and gardens. You will find them even near streams.
  • Appearance: It’s not hard to spot them. They are small and blue, and males are brighter compared to females. Both genders have small tails on their hind wings.
  • Size: Expect them to be small — they only grow around 1 inch or 2.5 centimeters.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on flower nectar. Occasionally, they may feed on dung or mud.
  • Reproduction: Females will lay eggs on host plants where caterpillars feed on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: A short lifespan of around one week characterizes this quick-moving species.
  • Host Plants: Preferably, they go for different types of legumes, like clovers and peas.

Discover this small, charming creature during their flight period which typically spans from April to October in Massachusetts.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent is a small butterfly native to Massachusetts, featuring a lovely color scheme that makes it easy to identify in nature.

Pearl Crescent butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is common in a variety of environments including farmlands, meadows, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The upper side of the Pearl Crescent is bright orange with black spots, while the underside is lighter with dark bands.
  • Size: The wingspan varies between 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm), placing it on the smaller side of butterfly species.
  • Diet: As an adult, the Pearl Crescent feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The adult lifespan spans a couple of weeks.
  • Host Plants: The preferred host plants are species from the Aster family, providing a food source for the hatched larvae.

Now, when you spot this delicate butterfly fluttering around your garden, you’ll know a bit more about its lifestyle.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

The Variegated Fritillary is a unique butterfly species which calls Massachusetts home, among other places.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: It’s a fan of open spaces. You’ll find them in meadows, fields, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Exhibits an unpredictable orange and brown wing pattern. Dark scales render a beautiful, wrinkled look.
  • Size: Its wingspan usually measures between 1.6 to 2.5 inches (4 to 6.35 cm).
  • Diet: It feeds on a rich variety of nectar-producing plants such as milkweed and thistles.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about two weeks, but the species produces multiple generations within a year.
  • Host Plants: They prefer flax, pansies, and passionflowers to lay their eggs and for their larvae to feed on.

Although they may not be the biggest or the most colorful butterflies, their charm lies in their distinctive patterns and behaviors.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

Your journey through Massachusetts’ butterfly fauna now leads you to the American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis).

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are adaptable, at home in open woodland, marshlands, fields, or even your backyard.
  • Appearance: Spot them by their orange-brown upper wings adorned with contrasting black and white marks. Undersides mimic a fallen leaf, excellent for camouflage.
  • Size: Adult wingspans range from 2 – 2.75 inches (5.1 – 7 cm), their compact sizes add to their cuteness.
  • Diet: Love sweets? So do they; nectar from flowers like aster and goldenrod is their favorite snack.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny green eggs singly on host plants, which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Unlike most, they live for several weeks; enough time to meet their mates, lay eggs and continue the cycle.
  • Host Plants: Plants like Pussytoes, Pearly Everlasting, and Ironweed serve as a nursery, feeding caterpillars until they transform into adults.

Such grace and adaptation are apparent in these delicate yet resilient creatures. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

The Aphrodite Fritillary, named after the Greek goddess of love, is a captivating butterfly species found in Massachusetts.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: It dwells in meadows and fields.
  • Appearance: They are bright orange with black spots, presenting a striking display.
  • Size: An average Aphrodite Fritillary span is around 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.4 to 8.9 cm), making it one of the larger fritillaries.
  • Diet: Insects generally feed on nectar-rich flowers like milkweeds and thistles.
  • Reproduction: They mate in mid-summer and lay eggs on violet leaves that serve as the primary food for the emergent caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of the Aphrodite Fritillary is a year, although most of that time is spent in the larval or pupal stage.
  • Host Plants: Their caterpillars feed almost exclusively on various species of violets. The plant’s leaves and flowers provide all the nutrients the growing Aphrodite needs.

This exquisite creature adds beauty and intrigue to the Massachusetts landscape.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Occasionally, you may come across the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia). Don’t let its deceptive name fool you. There’s nothing common about its striking beauty.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: This wonderful creature is at ease in diverse habitats, including meadows, fields, and dunes.
  • Appearance: The Buckeye sports an iconic mosaic of bright eyespots on its wings, each surrounded by a lovely russet halo.
  • Size: On average, it displays a wing span of copious 2-2.8 inches (5-7 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Buckeyes relish flowering plants. The younger ones, or larvae, munch on plantain.
  • Reproduction: Buckeyes produce multiple generations per year, assuring their presence.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle typically spans a short 1-2 weeks, but it’s lived fervently.
  • Host Plants: Their eggs are cunningly laid on host plants like Plantago or Snapdragon.

As fleeting as their life may seem, the Common Buckeye stands as a testament to the vividness of existence, urging us to appreciate each precious moment.

They teach us that the common can still be spectacularly beautiful.


We’ve navigated through the diverse colors and patterns of 30 butterfly species in Massachusetts. Hopefully, you should now feel closer to these marvelous creatures.

Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences with these butterfly species in the comments below!

Butterflies   Updated: August 8, 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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