30 Butterfly Species in Michigan

In this article, you’ll discover 30 different butterfly species that you can find in Michigan. You’ll explore their enchanting features and unique qualities that make them stand out.

Dive in and let’s embark on this journey through Michigan’s vibrant butterfly population together.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail or Papilio polyxenes is a familiar sight in Michigan’s gardens and meadows. They generally prefer open habitats and can also be spotted in suburban areas.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Open fields, gardens, and meadows.
  • Appearance: Males are black with two rows of yellow spots along the wings’ edges. Females also have blue bands between the two rows of yellow spots.
  • Size: 2.8 – 3.9 inches (7 – 10 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from many plant species while caterpillars feed on carrot family plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay round, greenish-yellow eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for 10 to 14 days.
  • Host Plants: Queen Anne’s lace, celery, carrot, and parsley.

As an eye-catching sight, the Black Swallowtail adds a dash of vibrant colors to the natural beauty of Michigan.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak is such an extraordinary presence you might encounter prowling through forests, parks and backyards in Michigan.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

Let’s delve into a few snippets on this fascinating creature:

  • Habitat: They find solace in hardwood forests, parks, and residential areas.
  • Appearance: They boast dark maroon wings with a yellowish edge, punctuated with a line of iridescent-blue spots.
  • Size: They impressively span 2.25 to 4 inches (6 to 10cm).
  • Diet: As adults, they consume tree sap, ripe fruit and only occasionally, flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Female lays eggs in large clusters, often on a chosen host plant.
  • Lifespan: They live for approximately 11 to 12 months, one of the most extended butterfly lifespans.
  • Host Plants: Willow, elm, and hackberry trees are among their preferred host plants.

Probably the most fascinating aspect is their unique coping mechanism during winter – they hibernate! So next time you spot a Mourning Cloak, remember, there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Columbine Duskywing (Erynnis lucilius)

The Columbine Duskywing is a unique butterfly species that you may come across in Michigan.

Columbine Duskywing Erynnis lucilius 2

  • Habitat: This butterfly species is specific in their habitat choice, preferring rocky slopes and open woodlands.
  • Appearance: The Columbine Duskywing exhibits a dark pencil-line outer edge and pale inner patches on its wings which contribute to its one-of-a-kind dusky appearance.
  • Size: Painstakingly small, this butterfly averages around 1.25 to 1.5 inches (about 32 – 38 mm) in terms of wingspan.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feast mainly on flower nectar while the larvae indulge in leaves of the host plant.
  • Reproduction: Egg-laying takes place on the host plants where the larvae will have direct access to food upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is yet not definitively known but speculated to be a few weeks, pretty common in butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Unsurprisingly, the Columbine Duskywing larvae feed exclusively on Columbine plants, hence the name.

For butterfly watchers, taking the time to look for these smaller, unique species can greatly enhance the experience.

Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius)

Park yourself amidst grassy meadows, and you’ll spot Peck’s Skipper fluttering by. They’re a common species throughout Michigan state.

Peck's Skipper butterfly

Let’s talk about this butterfly:

  • Habitat: Primarily grassland and wet meadows with an abundance of host plants.
  • Appearance: Bright orange wings adorned with dark brown markings. It also has a prominent white spot on its forewing.
  • Size: Conveniently small, life-size versions oscillate between 0.8 and 1.2 inches (2 to 3 cm).
  • Diet: Predominantly nectar from flowers like the clover and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females deposit eggs on the host plants, which generate into caterpillars and ultimately chrysalises.
  • Lifespan: A short one, approximately one to two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Primarily interested in grass species perfect for laying eggs, like purpletop and Kentucky bluegrass.

Equipped with such knowledge, your encounters with the Peck’s Skipper should be a whole lot fascinating!

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)

The White Admiral butterfly, a subspecies of the Limenitis arthemis arthemis, is an enthralling species that you can spot in Michigan.

Marked by its distinct and captivating appearance, this butterfly adds a touch of enchantment to the landscape where it’s found.

White Admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: These delicate creatures inhabit deciduous forests, especially around streams and moist areas.
  • Appearance: A distinguishing jet-black upper side with broad white bands crossing its wings showcases a striking contrast.
  • Size: White Admiral are relatively large, boasting wingspans between 2.5-4 inches (6.4 cm – 10.2 cm).
  • Diet: They usually feed on flower nectar, bird droppings, and fermenting fruits.
  • Reproduction: Females place their eggs singly on host plant leaves. After the larva hatches, they feed on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle spans several weeks, from the egg, to larva, to pupa, and finally to the adult stage.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on willows, poplar, and birch leaves. Each stage of the Admiral’s life exhibits its uniqueness, culminating in the awe-inspiring adult that graces Michigan’s gardens and green spaces.

American copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American copper, a small yet delightful butterfly species, is something to behold in Michigan.

American Copper butterfly

  • Habitat: These creatures favor open, dry locations such as sandy prairies, pastures, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: American coppers possess a copper-colored wing upper surface, adorned with dark spots and a noticeable outer margin. Contrastingly, the underwings are lighter, primarily gray.
  • Size: They are petite in size with a wingspan of about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adults love to feed on flowers, particularly red clover.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singularly on the underside of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: In general, the American copper’s lifespan is about 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants include sorrel and dock.

Thanks to its bright hue and charming size, the American copper truly stands out as a shimmering gem within Michigan’s butterfly population.

Least skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor)

This compact butterfly, also known as the Least Skipper, is commonly found in Michigan.

Least Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: They thrive in damp grasslands, borders of streams, or wet meadows, often staying close to their host plants.
  • Appearance: With their bright orange wings bordered by darker brown rims, Least Skipper is truly a sight to behold.
  • Size: It’s small! Typically ranging from 0.75 to 1.25 inches (around 2 to 3 cm).
  • Diet: As a butterfly, Least Skipper primarily feeds on nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: The females lay their eggs singly on the host plants, where the caterpillars feed upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: Short. They typically live for about a week to a month as adult butterflies.
  • Host Plants: The larvae like to feast on grass species including Rice Cutgrass and Marsh Millet.

These valuable details about the Least Skipper reveal the importance of maintaining balanced ecosystems for their preservation.

Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok)

Let’s delve into the extraordinary life of the Hobomok Skipper, a butterfly species native to Michigan.

Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok)

  • Habitat: The Hobomok Skipper can be frequently found in open, sunny sites, such as meadows, fields, and even gardens.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts an intriguing yellowish-brown color. Males exhibit a prominent black stigma on upper-side of wings.
  • Size: Generally, the Hobomok Skipper spans about 1.3 to 1.7 inches (3.3 to 4.3 cm).
  • Diet: Hobomok Skipper’s diet relies mainly on flower nectar. Flowers like dogbane and milkweed are among their favorites.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on grass blades, which serve as the initial food source for the caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The adult lifespan of the Hobomok Skipper, although short, is vital to the ecosystem. They typically live for around a week.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars show a preference for various species of grasses, which provide ample food for growth and development. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a creature that is often overlooked, don’t you think?

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Delight yourself at the sight of the Great Spangled Fritillary. This butterfly species flourishes, particularly in North America, including Michigan.

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: Great Spangled Fritillaries adore open woodland areas and green fields. They’re typically found hovering near violet plants.
  • Appearance: Dressed in magnificent orange-brown wings with black spots, this butterfly is a real feast for the eyes. Both the upper and lower sides of wings possess silvery spots.
  • Size: These creatures tend to have an impressive wingspan of about 2.5-3.5 inches (6.4-8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Fritillaries are known to feast on nectar of various flowering plants such as milkweed and thistle.
  • Reproduction: Mating tends to occur in mid-summer, and females lay their eggs on or near the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies typically live for a few weeks during the already warm summer months.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants for Great Spangled Fritillary caterpillars are various species of violets. In their caterpillar stage, they feed exclusively on leaves of violets.

You’ll find this butterfly an interesting sight, particularly during the summer months in Michigan.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a fascinating butterfly species you’ll often spot in Michigan. Its uniqueness lies in its unusual habits and distinct appearance.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly favors open spaces such as forests, woodland edges, and city parks.
  • Appearance: Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are yellow with four black “tiger stripes” on each forewing.
  • Size: They typically range from 3-6 inches (7.6-15.2 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they gorge on various plants, while adults sip nectar from many flowers.
  • Reproduction: They lay spherical, green eggs on host plants. The caterpillars emerge after about a week.
  • Lifespan: They usually live for about a month in the summer.
  • Host Plants: Popular hosts include Wild Cherry, Tulip trees, Willow, and Ash.

With such characteristics, this species captivates butterfly enthusiasts who come across the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in Michigan’s natural spaces.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark Butterfly is one of Michigan’s most unique species, known for its unusual punctuating symbol on the wings.

Question Mark butterfly

Let’s explore what makes this species special:

  • Habitat: These butterflies are urban dwellers, preferring wooded areas or city parks over open country or forests.
  • Appearance: It has a rich, rusty orange upper wing with black and brown spots. On the lower wing, a silver-white mark resembling a question mark can be seen.
  • Size: This butterfly reaches sizes between 2.25 to 3 inches (5.7 to 7.6 cm).
  • Diet: The Question Mark’s diet is diverse, feeding on overripe fruit, tree sap, or carrion.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay their eggs in singles on host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults can live up to two months, and their life cycle from egg to adult is around 40 days.
  • Host Plants: They favor hops, nettles, and elms for their larvae.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

The Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly, scientifically known as Cupido comyntas, is a small yet charmingly delicate creature, native to Michigan.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically found in meadows, fields, and even in roadsides.
  • Appearance: It boasts a gorgeous, vivid blue hue with pronounced orange spots near the tail.
  • Size: Tiny, standing out at around 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length.
  • Diet: Prefers legumes and occasionally feasts on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the buds of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The adult lifespan ranges from 5 to 10 days.
  • Host Plants: Its larvae feed on a variety of legume family plants including clover and alfalfa.

Don’t mistake their size for insignificance. Small but mighty, they are a beautiful part of Michigan’s diverse ecosystem.

Surely, you’ll be delighted when you spot one of these tiny gems darting around your garden.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral butterfly is one you had probably witnessed. Let’s learn more about them.

red-admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Generally found in moist areas like marshes, woods, fields, and yards.
  • Appearance: These butterflies are easily noticeable with their bright red band on black wings.
  • Size: They are medium-sized and can reach spans of 2-2.75 inches (5-7 cm).
  • Diet: Adults are attracted to nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants where they hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is 6 months, significantly longer than most butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Common host plants include nettles, particularly the stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica).

Now you’ll be able to recognize the Red Admiral with ease, and know a little about its life from its diet and mating habits, to its preferred living conditions.

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

The Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) holds a special place among the unique butterflies you can find dotting the landscape in Michigan.

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

  • Habitat: This butterfly species can be found in wooded areas and fields, typically near its host plants.
  • Appearance: Boasting a vibrant blue-green body, and lengthy tails on its hindwings that give it its name, this butterfly provides a colorful display.
  • Size: The adult long-tailed skipper is usually 1.8 to 2.3 inches (4.5 to 5.8 cm) wide.
  • Diet: Adults usually feed on nectar from flowers of various plants.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies undergo a complete metamorphosis, from egg to larva, pupa, and finally, adult.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of the Long-tailed Skipper is around 6 to 20 days.
  • Host Plants: Its caterpillar’s feed primarily on plants in the legume family, particularly beans and peas.

Thus, if you are in Michigan, remain vigilant for the Long-tailed Skipper, a beautiful addition to the state’s flora and fauna.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady butterfly, or Vanessa virginiensis, is a captivating sight you are fortunate to encounter in Michigan.

American Lady butterfly


  • Habitat: You can frequently spot them in sunny, open fields and gardens.
  • Appearance: They feature a vivid orange-brown and black pattern with eyecatching white spots on their hindwings.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges from 1.6 to 2.1 inches (4 to 5.5 centimeters).
  • Diet: Caterpillars feast on plants, while adults prefer nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly, mostly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Thistle, Hollyhock, and other plants of the sunflower family serve as their primary food during caterpillar stage.

This fascinating creature has its unique place among the 30 butterfly species in Michigan. Each individual brings a delightful burst of color and life to Michigan landscapes.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria Aphrodite)

Aphrodite Fritillary is a dazzling species of butterfly that is found in Michigan. Its name originates from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty – very fitting considering its exquisite appearance.

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: They frequent sunny fields, open woodlands, and gardens.
  • Appearance: This species has stunning orange wings with black markings, the undersides of its hind wings are patterned with silver spots.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges from 2.1 to 2.7 inches (5.3 to 6.8 cm).
  • Diet: Aphrodite Fritillaries nectar on a variety of flowering plants like milkweed and goldenrod.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their pale green eggs on or near host plants, which the caterpillars feed on after hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adult Aphrodite Fritillaries usually live for around two weeks.
  • Host Plants: They primarily use violets as their host plants where they lay eggs and the caterpillars feed.

Their presence in your garden means you are supporting critical pollinators.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur is a beautiful butterfly species you can readily spot in Michigan. It’s generally noticeable by its bright orange and yellow hues, distinctive enough to make it stand out.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Large colonies can be found in meadows, roadsides, fields or other open spaces with plenty of sunlight.
  • Appearance: Almost golden in color, it usually has a dark border around its wings. Males are generally brighter than females.
  • Size: Considerably medium-sized, they range from 1.3 to 2.2 inches (3.3 to 5.6 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Orange Sulphurs feed primarily on nectar from flowers. They love purple and white flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the host plant. These hatch into caterpillars that remain active all summer.
  • Lifespan: Adult Orange Sulphurs live for about a month. They can produce multiple generations a year.
  • Host Plants: Alfalfa, white clover and other legumes are their go-to plants for laying eggs and for their caterpillars to feed on.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady butterfly is one of the most widespread species found not only in Michigan, but worldwide.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer open, disturbed areas like gardens, meadows, and parks.
  • Appearance: A delightful sight with their vibrant orange-brown wings highlighted with black and white spots on the tips.
  • Size: Painted Ladies span between 2 to 2.9 inches (5 to 7.3cm) wingtip to wingtip.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of various wildflowers while caterpillars enjoy thistles and mallows.
  • Reproduction: One of the prolific breeders. A single female can lay up to 500 eggs.
  • Lifespan: Shockingly short. Most adults live only 2-4 weeks, while those that migrate might live up to 7-8 months.
  • Host Plants: Favorite caterpillar food plants include Hollyhocks, Malvas, and Thistles.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

This diverse species is interesting to observe. It flaunts an exciting mix of colors.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: Mostly woodland edges, gardens or parks are its preferred hangouts.
  • Appearance: The upper-side of its wings boasts a deep iridescent blue color, adorned with red spots, and cream-colored edges.
  • Size: Adult wing-span ranges around 2.5-4 inches (6.4 – 10.2 cm).
  • Diet: Red-spotted Purples have a peculiar diet: they feed on tree sap, rotting fruit and even caterpillar feces.
  • Reproduction: Mating starts in the late afternoon and extends into the evening.
  • Lifespan: As an adult butterfly, they live for about a couple of weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars mostly feed on leaves of green or wild black cherry, willows, shadblow, hawthorns, poplars, or oaks.

Residing in Michigan, the Red-spotted Purple displays vibrant colors, displays an interesting behavior pattern, and intriguing interactions with the environment.

Without a doubt, these butterflies contribute to the ecological richness of Michigan.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Meet the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), the largest butterfly you can see in Michigan.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Preferring sunny locales, these butterflies are often found in gardens, forests, and pastures.
  • Appearance: Their striking yellow and black stripes are a sight to behold. They sport two blue and red eyespots on their hind wings.
  • Size: With wingspans ranging from 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm), they are truly “giant” in the world of butterflies.
  • Diet: The Giant Swallowtail enjoys nectar from a wide variety of plants including milkweed, and lantana.
  • Reproduction: Female swallowtails lay light yellow, round eggs on leaves.
  • Lifespan: They live an average of about 6 weeks, having one of the shortest lifespans among butterflies.
  • Host Plants: They prefer citrus plants where the young caterpillars can feed on.

The Giant Swallowtail is a beautiful and important part of the Michigan butterfly fauna. Keep an eye out, and you may be lucky to encounter one.

European skipper (Thymelicus lineola)

The European skipper is a butterfly species that’s an inviting sight in Michigan.

Essex Skipper Butterfly

  • Habitat: You can often find these critters in grasslands and open areas, as well as gardens.
  • Appearance: Sporting a tawny-orange color with a brown border, these butterflies have a distinctive look.
  • Size: This small butterfly has a wingspan of around 1 inch (approximately 2.5 cm) only.
  • Diet: The European skipper feeds on the nectar of various flowers saving them from harmful insects.
  • Reproduction: Mating season for these butterflies tends to peak in June. Afterwards, the females lay eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: They usually have an adult lifespan of around 7 to 10 days.
  • Host Plants: European skippers lay their eggs on various species of grasses where their caterpillars feed before pupating into the adult form.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is one of the most widespread butterflies in North America.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

Get familiar with these characteristics of their life:

  • Habitat: You’d normally spot them in open fields, gardens, and roadsides. They’re not shy of human habitation.
  • Appearance: They have chocolate-brown wings, with a distinct silver-white spot beneath.
  • Size: The adults have a wingspan of 1.75 – 2.5 inches (4.4 – 6.4cm).
  • Diet: Adult skippers feed on the nectar of flowers such as the Red Clover and Common Milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants. Caterpillars lead solitary lives.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of the adult is approximately one month.
  • Host Plants: Willow, black locust, and honey locust are some of the plants they favor.

Recognizing this butterfly is easy, making it a favorite among many butterfly enthusiasts.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a familiar sight across North America and is the state insect of seven states.

This species is well-known for its breathtaking migration, spanning thousands of miles from Canada to Mexico.


  • Habitat: They inhabit a wide range of environments like meadows, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Distinguishable by its vibrant orange wings, laced with black veins, and bordered with black edges sprinkled with white spots.
  • Size: Monarchs are large, with a wingspan of approximately 3.7-4.1 inches (94-104 millimeters).
  • Diet: As adults, they feed primarily on nectar from flowers. Caterpillars feed on milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on milkweed plants. They can lay several hundred eggs over a few weeks.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan ranges from 2 weeks to about 8 months, depending on the generation.
  • Host Plants: The milkweed plant species serve as the host plant for Monarchs, where they lay their eggs and the caterpillars feed.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail is a truly striking sight to behold.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: They love moist, lowland areas and are typically found near streams and rivers.
  • Appearance: Its wings flaunt a unique black and white pattern, resembling a zebra’s stripes, hence the name. Plus, they have red spots towards the base of their tail.
  • Size: They stand out with a wingspan of 2-4 inches (5-10 cm).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed mainly on pawpaw leaves. After maturation, adult butterflies stick to nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Zebra Swallowtails lay single green eggs on the leaves of the host plant, which hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: An adult’s lifespan is surprisingly brief, lasting only about six weeks.
  • Host Plants: A key feature of their lifecycle; Pawpaw plants (Asimina triloba) serve as the primary host plant.

This butterfly not only adds beauty to the Michigan landscape but plays a crucial part in the local ecosystem.

Cabbage white (Pieris rapae)

“Cabbage White” is a common name applied to two species of pale, small- to medium-sized butterflies widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and North America.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: These are adaptable butterflies and can thrive in various habitats. You’ll see them in meadows, parks, gardens, and open spaces.
  • Appearance: The Cabbage White is mainly creamy-white. The upper side of its wings shows a black tip on the forewing.
  • Size: Their wingspan is roughly 1.6 to 2.1 inches (40-55mm).
  • Diet: The adults primarily feed on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, pale yellow eggs. Caterpillars grow rapidly, reaching about 1 inch (25mm) in two weeks.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually have a lifespan of around 3-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larval host plants typically belong to mustard family, including cabbage, broccoli, and radish. Watch out, gardeners! These butterflies may cause a nuisance to your crops.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a butterfly species that livens up the insect scene in Michigan.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Its natural habitats are locate in woodlands, but it can often be seen in urban parks as well.
  • Appearance: It is easy to notice with its pale brown exterior and intricate patterns of white and brown spots on its wings.
  • Size: It measures about 1.7 – 3 inches (4.3 – 7.6 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult Hackberry Emperors prefer tree sap and rotting fruit but will occasionally sample nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: In spring, the females lay single greenish eggs on the upper part of the leaves.
  • Lifespan: The adults have a short lifespan, typically living just a couple weeks.
  • Host Plants: As their name implies, Hackberry Emperors primarily use hackberry trees as their host plants, particularly the common and netleaf hackberries.

These butterflies are unafraid of people and might even land on you if you’re fortunate to encounter one.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly not only adds a vibrant dash of color to the landscape but also brings a fascinating story of survival.


  • Habitat: Viceroys are typically found in marshes, meadows, and along the edges of forests. They are seen often near bodies of water, particularly where willow trees grow.
  • Appearance: This species is often mistaken for the Monarch because of its similar bright orange color, marked with black lines and white spots.
  • Size: The Viceroy’s wingspan ranges between 2.6-3.1 inches (66-79 mm), making it slightly smaller than its Monarch lookalike.
  • Diet: Adult Viceroys feed on nectar from flowers, while caterpillars feed primarily on the leaves of willow and poplar trees.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on the leaves of the host plants The lone caterpillar then creates a leaf shelter where it develops into a pupa before transforming into an adult butterfly.
  • Lifespan: Adult Viceroys typically live for two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Willow, aspen, and poplar trees are among the primary host plants for the Viceroy butterfly.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Your next magnificent visit on this Michigan butterfly expedition is the Common Buckeye. This medium-sized butterfly is known for its distinctive, colorful patterns.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in sunny, open environments like meadows, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Unmissable with its brown wings marked by beautiful eye-like spots of white, orange, and black.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 2 to 2.8 inches (5 to 7 cm), it’s not too big and not too small.
  • Diet: Common Buckeyes feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, including those of the Asteraceae family.
  • Reproduction: The Common Buckeye lays single greenish-white eggs on the host plant of the larva.
  • Lifespan: In general, the adult Common Buckeye grants you its beauty for approximately 3 to 7 days.
  • Host Plants: With a preference for members of the Plantaginaceae family, watch your Plantain or Snapdragon – you may spot their caterpillars.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is a jewel in the treasure trove of Michigan’s indigenous butterfly species. Owning its name to a preference for spicebush plants, it effortlessly catches the eye with distinctive, graceful patterns.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Loves wooded areas, open fields, roadsides, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Keen observers will notice the bluish-green ‘eyes’ on the hind wings. Its upper side is mostly black, with light powdering of blue and pale, cream-colored spots.
  • Size: Adult wings span between 3 to 4 inches (76 – 101mm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on the nectar of flowers, while caterpillars munch on leaves of spicebush, Sassafras trees, and tulip trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs, typically on the underside of host plants’ leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live for around one month.
  • Host Plants: Favorites include Spicebush, Sassafras, and Tulip trees.

Next time you’re in Michigan’s great outdoors, keep an eye out for this black-winged beauty. You’ll be glad you did.

Clouded sulphur (Colias philodice)

In the elegant dance of Michigan’s butterfly biodiversity, the Clouded Sulphur is sure to enchant you. This delicate species is brilliant, uniquely marked and truly a spectacle to behold.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Abundantly found in meadows, farmlands, or clover or alfalfa fields.
  • Appearance: Elicits awe with its bright-yellow or cream-colored wings. An icy-white spot adds an exquisite finish to each wing.
  • Size: Adults often reach a wingspan around 1.5-2.0 inches (3.8-5.08 cm).
  • Diet: Prefers nectar from plants like clover, milkweeds, and asters.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their greenish-cream eggs, often singly, through the summer.
  • Lifespan: Can live almost a year (from laying of eggs to adult death).
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars favor clover, alfalfa, and peas for feeding.

Though populous, the Clouded Sulphur is no less remarkable than its flashier cousins. It’s a testament to the charming biodiversity that exists even in our everyday surroundings.


You’ve now had a close encounter with 30 spectacular butterfly species fluttering around Michigan.

Each species, with its unique traits and captivating beauty, forms an integral part of Michigan’s rich biodiversity.

Don’t forget to leave a comment about which butterfly you find most fascinating!

Butterflies   Updated: August 9, 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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