30 Butterfly Species in Minnesota

In this expository piece, you’ll explore the magical world of Minnesota’s 30 butterfly species. You’ll find out intricate details about each type, from the American Copper to the Common Hairstreak.

Dive into this colorful whirl of information, serving as a guide to the state’s stunning diversity of butterflies.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper or Lycaena phlaeas is a terrific species to kick-start our list of butterflies in Minnesota.

American Copper butterfly

So, let’s delve into the fascinating world of these small, yet magnificent creatures:

  • Habitat: Typically found in open fields and grasslands.
  • Appearance: They are brilliant, with brown color creatures and black spots on their brightly colored orange wings. There’s a subtle metallic copper sheen on the upper surface of their wings.
  • Size: The American Copper is relatively tiny, with a wingspan of just 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm).
  • Diet: Their main diet consists of flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the under-side of dock leaves, mainly preferred Rumex species.
  • Lifespan: These butterflies live up to three weeks.
  • Host Plants: They are particularly fond of Dock, Sorrel and Sheep’s sorrel plants.

The American Copper truly is a mesmerizing creature that adds a unique flavor to Minnesota’s lush surroundings.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Meet the Painted Lady, one of the most common and widespread butterfly species in Minnesota.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: They favor a variety of habitats including gardens, meadows, and roadsides, making them adaptable and resilient.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is distinct with orange uppersides and complex patterns in black and white on the underwings.
  • Size: They measure a mid-sized 2 to 3.5 inches (5 to 9 cm) across their wings.
  • Diet: Adult Painted Ladies feed on nectar from numerous plant species.
  • Reproduction: Mating occurs year round. Females lay eggs in clusters on host plants.
  • Lifespan: This species has a relatively brief lifespan of 2 weeks in their adult stage.
  • Host Plants: The favorite larval host plants include species of thistles, hollyhock, and sunflower.

Likely, you’ve spotted the Painted Lady on a sunny day fluttering around your garden, a testament to their hardy and adaptable nature.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Recognized globally, the Monarch butterfly is common in Minnesota. The Monarch is recognized by its striking deep orange and black coloring.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

  • Habitat: You’ll notice Monarchs in open areas with flowering plants, including meadows and garden. Also, they’re most prevalent on milkweed plants.
  • Appearance: Monarchs sport deep orange wings with black borders loaded with white spots. They also have a unique pattern of black veins.
  • Size: With a wingspan up to 4 inches (10.16 cm), their size is impressive.
  • Diet: These species mostly rely on nectar from a variety of flowers. However, milkweed is an essential plant for their survival.
  • Reproduction: Interestingly, they lay eggs on underside of milkweed plants. Upon hatching, the caterpillars feed on the milkweed.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies have a life span of about 2 to 6 weeks in the summer but can exceed 9 months if they become migratory.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed is not only a primary food source but also the preferred site for Monarchs to lay their eggs.

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)

The White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) is a remarkable addition to the butterfly fauna of Minnesota.

White Admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: White Admirals prefer deciduous and mixed forests for their living environment.
  • Appearance: They have distinct black wings with white bands running across them, giving them an elegant look.
  • Size: The adult White Admiral butterfly typically reaches a wingspan of between 2.75 to 4 inches (7 to 10.16 cm).
  • Diet: White Admirals sustain themselves mainly on tree sap, juices of rotting fruit, and occasionally, flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single green-colored eggs on the tips of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: While the caterpillar and chrysalis stages together can last for about a month, the adult butterfly can live up to a fortnight.
  • Host Plants: For caterpillars, the favorite host plants are varieties of willow, birch, and poplar trees. Additionally, they show a preference for chokecherry plants.

Dogface Butterfly (Zerene eurydice)

The Dogface Butterfly, scientifically known as Zerene eurydice, is an iconic inhabitant of Minnesota’s vast ecological spectrum.

California Dogface (Zerene eurydice)

  • Habitat: These butterflies flourish best in open sunny areas, like fields or gardens.
  • Appearance: The distinctive ‘dog face’ pattern on their upper wing surface gives them their name. When resting, they display a pale yellow underside.
  • Size: The Dogface Butterfly averages about 2.2 to 3.2 inches (5.5 to 8 cms) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As adults, their primary source of nutrition is nectar from diverse flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: They lay cream-colored eggs. These hatch into larvae, which then transform into butterflies.
  • Lifespan: On average, the adult life span is approximately 10 to 20 days.
  • Host Plants: The larvae primarily feed on False Indigo (Amorpha species) and other plant species in the pea family (Fabaceae).

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)

You’re likely to spot the Silver-bordered Fritillary flitting about meadows and marshy areas. This medium-sized butterfly is best recognized by its stunning, rusty orange wings, bordered by distinctive silver spots, hence its name.

Silver-bordered Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers wet meadows, marshes, and bogs.
  • Appearance: Boasts orange wings with black spots on the upper side and stunning silver spots outlining the bottom.
  • Size: Generally measures 1.6 to 2.2 inches (40 to 55 mm) across in wingspan.
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, they primarily feed on violets. Adult butterflies typically feed on nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on violet leaves in late summer. The young caterpillars then feed on these plants in spring.
  • Lifespan: Short. Adults typically live for 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Reliant on various species of violets, particularly marsh violets, that grow in its habitat.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Seeing a Zebra Swallowtail fluttering through the Minnesota woods is a real treat. Their striking appearance and graceful flight make them one of the most charming butterfly species in the state.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s some quick information about them:

  • Habitat: They prefer woodland areas and are commonly found near creeks and rivers.
  • Appearance: Like their namesake, their wings are predominantly white with black striped markings.
  • Size: The wingspan ranges from 2.75-4 inches (about 7-10 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies are fond of nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single green eggs on the leaves of their favored host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is approximately 6 weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The Pawpaw tree serves as the primary host plant for Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars.

Whether you’re a butterfly enthusiast or simply a lover of nature’s beauty, the Zebra Swallowtail is sure to captivate your heart.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a butterfly native to North America, including Minnesota. This species has a strong affinity for hackberry trees, hence its name.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: It thrives in woodlands, suburbs, and areas with open spaces.
  • Appearance: This butterfly features a complex pattern of warm shades of brown. Lighter spots can be seen on the wings’ edges.
  • Size: Adults range in size from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 – 5 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar from flowers isn’t necessary for this species, it prefers to feed on sap, rotting fruit, and even bird droppings.
  • Reproduction: They display a unique courtship ritual where the female flutters while the male plays a “tag” game to mate.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about 2 weeks during summer (June to September) often having two generations per year.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars rely on hackberry tree species as a source of nourishment.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

The Red-spotted Purple is a captivating inhabitant of the Minnesota woodlands.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Let’s delve into the interesting specifics of this butterfly species:

  • Habitat: This butterfly inhabits deciduous woodlands, generally preferring open, sunny areas.
  • Appearance: It possesses a richly hued, iridescent blue-black wing surface, mimicking toxic pipevine swallowtails. The underwings display conspicuous red spots, hence their name.
  • Size: They have a moderate size with a wingspan around 3-3.5 inches (7.5-9 cm).
  • Diet: Adults get their sustenance from tree sap, rotting fruit, carrion, dung, but rarely flowers.
  • Reproduction: They have one or two broods per year, laying pale-green eggs singly on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults can live for several weeks depending on environmental conditions.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed on the leaves of willows, poplars, and cottonwood trees. They are particularly fond of wild cherry and birch trees.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is a frequent visitor of Minnesota’s meadows and gardens. Its unique mark sets it apart from its siblings.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

Let’s explore what makes this butterfly so special:

  • Habitat: Prefers open, sunny areas. Often found in meadows, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Dusty brown wings with a distinct, silver-white spot on the hindwing.
  • Size: Has a fairly large wingspan which ranges from 1.75 to 2.5 inches (4.45 to 6.35 centimeters).
  • Diet: Mainly dependent on nectar from flowering plants. Specifically enjoys thistles, milkweeds, and red clover.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult life span is typically 1-2 weeks, though the full life cycle can take up to 40 days, depending on conditions.
  • Host Plants: Favors legumes, especially Hog-peanut and Tick-trefoil.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

Take a moment to appreciate the American Lady butterfly, Vanessa virginiensis, as you wander through Minnesota’s meadows.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Frequenting open habitats, it thrives in fields, gardens, and even sand dunes.
  • Appearance: Its brownish-orange wings with black and white spots make for an impressive spectacle.
  • Size: Are you ready for some measurements? This species ranges from 1.75 to 2.6 inches (4.4 to 6.6 cm).
  • Diet: These lovely creatures feed off nectar from clovers, goldenrods, and more.
  • Reproduction: Watch out for its broods in warmer climates. It multiplies with two generations per year in the north, whereas in the south, it could be up to six.
  • Lifespan: In the ephemeral world of butterflies, it lives up to two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Keep an eye on cudweeds, everlastings, other burdocks and thistles where the females lay their eggs.

An encounter with the American Lady isn’t one easily forgotten!

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

Take a look at the Variegated Fritillary, a mesmerizing species you can spot in Minnesota. From its unique appearance to its lifecycle, it’s one fascinating creature.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find this species flourishing in open, sunny fields, often near water bodies.
  • Appearance: Displaying a striking color pattern, the Variegated Fritillary boasts varying shades of orange and brown with darker spots.
  • Size: It’s medium in size, with a wingspan that measures around 1.5 to 2.5 inches (3.8 cm to 6.4 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies of this species enjoy sipping nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay tan-colored eggs on plant leaves where larvae will feed.
  • Lifespan: The lifecycle ranges from pupa to adult in only about one month.
  • Host Plants: Larvae enjoy snacking on various violets, passionflowers, and some species of flax.

Note the distinctly checkered margin around the wings next time you spot a Variegated Fritillary in the wild.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is a fascinating butterfly species. Its large size and fluttering flight make it easy to spot.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: It resides in different areas including woodlands, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is black and yellow, with a dash of blue near its tail. It has a distinctive ‘forked’ appearance.
  • Size: The size is impressive – between 4-6 inches (10-15cm) in wingspan, indeed the largest butterfly in North America.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on nectar from various flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: It lays single, spherical yellow eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The Giant Swallowtail typically lasts a few weeks in its adult form, but the whole life cycle extends over a year.
  • Host Plants: It prefers citrus trees, like lemons and oranges, where it lays the eggs on the upper surface of leaves.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly is an elegant winged creature that calls Minnesota home.


  • Habitat: They are usually found in grasslands, wetlands, and forests- essentially, anywhere their host plants, Willows and Poplar trees, grow.
  • Appearance: Viceroy butterflies are known for their orange and black striated wings, with a signature black line cutting through their hind wings.
  • Size: This butterfly’s size is considerable, resting between 2.5-3 in (6.4-7.6 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, Viceroys feed mostly on nectar from flowers, but will also sample fruit and dung.
  • Reproduction: In summer, female butterflies lay their eggs individually on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: As a butterfly, the Viceroy typically lives for about two weeks.
  • Host Plants: They prefer to lay their eggs on trees from the Willow and Poplar family, which the caterpillars will later feed on.

This butterfly is truly a spectacle of nature, adding a dash of color and grace to Minnesota’s great outdoors.

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)

The Tawny Emperor is a commonly encountered butterfly species in Minnesota.

Tawny Emperor butterfly

Let’s uncover some facts about this beautiful creature:

  • Habitat: Mostly found in wooded areas, along forest edges and river valleys.
  • Appearance: Males are deep orange with a distinctive pattern of tan spots. Females are generally paler, with a brownish tinge.
  • Size: Wingspan ranges from 2.5 to 3.2 inches (approx. 6.3 to 8.1 cm).
  • Diet: Unlike most species, Tawny Emperors are ‘non-feeding’ adults, deriving their energy from the larval fat stores.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is about two weeks in the adult phase.
  • Host Plants: They enjoy a variety of plant species, but Hackberry trees are their favorite host plants.

Learning about the Tawny Emperor gives insight into its world and helps ascertain its crucial role in our ecosystem.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye is a captivating butterfly species found in various habitats all over Minnesota.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: They typically dwell in open, sunny areas with low vegetation and some bare ground.
  • Appearance: Their unique wing pattern and color consists of eye-like spots on a brown background, with beautiful lavender and orange hues.
  • Size: Adult Common Buckeyes span around 2 to 2.5 inches (approximately 5cm to 6.4cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies sip nectar from a wide array of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the buds or flowers of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan varies, but typically ranges from a few weeks to several months.
  • Host Plants: The plant species include snapdragon (Antirrhinum), toadflax (Linaria), and the false foxglove (Agalinis).

This adaptive ability to various environments makes the Common Buckeye a regular sight, adding beauty to the Minnesota landscape.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral butterfly is a captivating sight recognized for its resilience and extensive migratory habits.

red-admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Preferring moist environments, you’ll find them near water bodies, woodlands, and parks across Minnesota.
  • Appearance: Their striking black wings with vibrant red bands set them apart.
  • Size: They are a decently sized butterfly with a 2-3 inch (5-7.6 cm) wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult Red Admirals feed on fermented fruit juices, bird droppings, and nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the upper side of host plants like nettles.
  • Lifespan: They have a relatively short lifespan, typically living 6 weeks in the summer. However, those born in fall may live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on nettles, which makes gardens, parks, and other human-dominated spaces perfect for these butterflies to thrive.

The Red Admiral adds a splash of color and charm to Minnesota’s diverse lepidopteran biodiversity.

Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)

The Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) is a fascinating butterfly species native to Minnesota. Its name sums up its appearance effectively.

Northern Cloudywing butterfly

  • Habitat: It can be found dwelling in various environments like fields, roadsides, and forest edges.
  • Appearance: It features dark-brown wings with a few lighter spots and an eye-catching fringe along the wing edges.
  • Size: The wing span generally measures 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 – 5 cm) in width.
  • Diet: You’ll find it feeding on nectar from a variety of flowers including milkweed and dogbane.
  • Reproduction: During mating, the female lays a single egg on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: While the exact lifespan of these butterflies varies, the entire life cycle from egg to adult spans a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Its caterpillars thrive on legume family plants such as peas and beans.

This butterfly species is truly an intriguing part of Minnesota’s rich biodiversity.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is a striking butterfly species that’s common in Minnesota. This butterfly’s name is obtained from its principal host plant, the spicebush.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Spicebush Swallowtails thrive in a variety of places like woodlands, fields, and suburban areas.
  • Appearance: They exhibit a shiny bluish-black color with light blue bands and spots, and an orange-red spot near each lower corner of the hindwing.
  • Size: Usually, their size varies between 3 to 4 inches (around 7.5 to 10 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of various flowers, while the caterpillars feed mainly on the leaves of spicebush.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on spicebush leaves or sometimes sassafras tree leaves.
  • Lifespan: They live up to around 2 weeks as adult butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Generally, spicebush and sassafras trees serve as primary host plants for the omnivorous caterpillars.

Observing the Spicebush Swallowtail in action can be a delightful experience for butterfly enthusiasts in Minnesota.

Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

The Wild Indigo Duskywing is another exquisite butterfly species often found in Minnesota.

Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

Let’s dive deeper into some interesting facts about this delicate creature:

  • Habitat: Typically, these butterflies thrive in savannas, gardens, and roadside areas.
  • Appearance: They are primarily brown with eye-catching white iridescent spots on their forewings.
  • Size: A medium-sized butterfly, they can reach a wingspan of 1.25 to 1.5 inches (3.2 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers including wild indigo and black locust is a favorite.
  • Reproduction: Like many butterflies, they lay eggs on certain specific plants.
  • Lifespan: An average lifespan for this species is a few weeks in their adult form.
  • Host Plants: Generally, Wild Indigo Duskywing larva will feed on various legume species plants.

These eye-catching butterflies with charming white-spotted wings make a delightful presence in the diverse Minnesota butterfly population.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, scientific name Nymphalis antiopa, is quite a sight to behold. This butterfly species is fairly common and can be found in various habitats throughout Minnesota.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: They reside in deciduous woodlands, city parks, suburbs, and riparian areas.
  • Appearance: This species is easily identifiable by the vibrant yellow border line on its dark brown wings. The wing edges themselves have blue spots.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 2.25 to 4 inches (5.7 to 10 cm), the Mourning Cloak is medium-sized.
  • Diet: As adults, they prefer tree sap, ripe fruit, and only occasionally, flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of eggs on the twigs and leaves of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Remarkably, this butterfly has a lifespan that can reach up to 12 months.
  • Host Plants: They lay their eggs most commonly on willows, elms, poplars, and hackberries.

The Mourning Cloak truly is an exceptional example of the beauty that nature in Minnesota has to offer.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a delightful presence in Minnesota. Swathed in yellow and black stripes just like a tiger, it adds color to the landscapes it inhabits.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find this species thriving in woodlands, fields, and suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: This butterfly sports yellow to yellow-orange wings, with distinct black stripes resembling a tiger’s coat. Four black “tiger stripes” on each forewing give it its name.
  • Size: The wingspan is large, around 3 to 5.5 inches, or roughly 7.6 to 14 cm.
  • Diet: Adult swallowtails fancy sipping nectar from multiple flower species. Young caterpillars feed on leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical green eggs on host plant leaves. The larvae go through five stages before becoming a chrysalis.
  • Lifespan: Adults live around 1 month, while eggs, larvae and pupae stages may take from 30 to 50 days.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars prefer plants like wild black cherry and tulip tree.

In this brief glimpse into the life of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, you’ve gained knowledge of one of Minnesota’s fascinating butterflies.

The next time you’re outdoors, pay close attention and you might spot one dancing in the breeze.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Get ready to meet the vibrant Gulf Fritillary. This flamboyant butterfly species is a vision in the Minnesota environment.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: Favoring warm climates, they are found in a variety of locations, from urban areas to open fields.
  • Appearance: They are distinctive with bright orange wings, dotted with black spots. Open their wings, and get treated to iridescent silver spots.
  • Size: They’re relatively large, boasting a wingspan of about 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.3 to 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Sipping nectar from flowers, they also share a taste for various fruits.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants where caterpillars feed on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: A month or two as adults, and just a few weeks as a caterpillar.
  • Host Plants: You’ll find them on passion vines, especially those of the Passiflora family.

This butterfly is a joy to spot. Its elegance never fails to add a burst of color to Minnesota’s scenery.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

The Common Checkered-Skipper, scientifically known as Pyrgus communis, is an intriguing species of butterfly you can spot in Minnesota.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

  • Habitat: Common Checkered-Skippers thrive in open spaces. They particularly enjoy sunny environments like fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts a checkered black and white pattern. Its upper-side is primarily dark gray with white spots.
  • Size: With a wingspan of merely 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm), it is a relatively small butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on nectar from flowers while caterpillars consume the leaves of their host plants.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay pale green eggs singly on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of these butterflies is short, ranging from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Certain types of mallow plants, including the Hollyhock and common mallow, are particularly loved by these butterfly larvae.

The sparkling appeal of this butterfly lies in its simplistic charm and striking black and white pattern.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

Occupying the meadows and fields of Minnesota, you’ll encounter the Aphrodite Fritillary.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer sunny fields and wet meadows, often near forests.
  • Appearance: They showcase orange-brown wings with intricate patterns. Black spots scatter across the lower portion of their wings, boasting an iridescent quality when exposed to sunlight.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges from 2.5-3.5 inches (6.5-9 cm).
  • Diet: Mostly nectar from wildflowers, particularly from the daisy family.
  • Reproduction: They mate in summer and females lay eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: From egg to maturity, it takes an approximate nine months.
  • Host Plants: Violet plants are their favorite host species. Caterpillars stay tucked amidst the vegetation until the following year.

This butterfly species remains one of the most distinctive, displaying a vibrancy undeniable even in the bustling fields of Minnesota.

Its outstanding contribution to pollination makes it an excellent insect, and it’s admired for its endurance despite environmental changes.

Its ability to adapt and favorability toward different habitats make it a unique, robust species within Minnesota’s butterfly community.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Great Spangled Fritillary is an important part of the Minnesota butterfly population and is known for its bright and striking patterns.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Let’s explore more about this impressive species:

  • Habitat: Usually found in open, sunny areas. These include fields, meadows, and even roadsides.
  • Appearance: Distinguishable by their orange wings with black spots. Females showcase a darker color profile.
  • Size: A pretty sizeable species, measuring up to 2.5-3.5 inches (roughly 6.4-8.9 cm) in wing size.
  • Diet: Nectar from various flowers constitutes the most significant chunk of their diet.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny eggs on the leaves of host plants, which survive the winter and hatch in spring.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies live for around a month, from mid-summer to early fall.
  • Host Plants: Violet plants serve as the host plant, where caterpillars feed and prepare to form the chrysalis.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

You’ve likely seen the vibrant Black Swallowtail fluttering in open spaces, such as sunny meadows and gardens. This is one of the most frequent butterfly species you’ll encounter in Minnesota.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find them mainly in open habitats, including gardens, fields, and meadows.
  • Appearance: A stunning specimen, they boast dark black wings highlighted with yellow and blue markings.
  • Size: A medium to large species, their wingspan ranges from 2.7 to 3.1 inches (6.9 to 7.9 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Black Swallowtails are partial to the nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on plants that will provide nourishment for their upcoming larvae.
  • Lifespan: Most will live about 10 to 12 days, though some can survive a few days longer.
  • Host Plants: The Black Swallowtail’s favorite hosts include the leaves of plants in the carrot family, such as parsley and dill.

Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis)

Juvenal’s Duskywing is one of the most common butterflies in Minnesota.

Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) (DIN0355)

Let’s explore more about it:

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in wooded, sunny environments with plenty of oak trees.
  • Appearance: It’s recognized by dark brown wings with white, speckled spots.
  • Size: Adults measure 1.25 to 2 inches (3.17 to 5.08 cm) wide.
  • Diet: The caterpillars feed on oak leaves, while adults prefer flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the undersides of oak leaves.
  • Lifespan: They tend to live up to 3 weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: Oaks, specifically species like white oak and post oak, are essential to their lifecycle.

Learning about the Juvenal’s Duskywing helps appreciate the diversity of butterfly species in Minnesota. Each butterfly adds unique colors and vibrancy to our environment.

Common (clouded) Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The Common (clouded) Sulphur is a species that attracts attention due to its bright color.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Preferring open areas, these butterflies are common in meadows, roadsides, and home gardens.
  • Appearance: Males showcase a bright yellow upper side with a solid black border, while females have a lighter color with yellow spots. The underwing is striking with a set of silvery cell spots.
  • Size: This species has a moderate wingspan ranging between 1.25 to 2 inches (3.2 to 5 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies primarily feed on nectar from flowers like Clover and Alfalfa.
  • Reproduction: Butterflies lay pale green eggs on host plants, which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live for a few weeks, but some can survive up to a year.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants are leguminous herbs, particularly clover and alfalfa.

Common Hairstreak/Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Common Hairstreak, also known as the Gray Hairstreak, is a charismatic butterfly species.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: They establish habitats in a wide range of environments, from deserts to mountain tops.
  • Appearance: These butterflies are primarily grey, but their underwings host a subtle blue spot near the margin.
  • Size: They’re quite small, typically two to three centimeters (or approximately an inch to an inch and a half).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies favor nectar from many flower species, while the larvae prefer plant material from the Leguminosae family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay blue-green eggs on flowers and buds.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies normally live for approximately a week.
  • Host Plants: The Hairstreak’s caterpillars call a variety of legume family plants ‘home’.

Next time you’re in Minnesota, keep an eye out for the elusive Gray Hairstreak!


You’ve now introduced yourself to 30 unique butterfly species that call Minnesota home. Each one contributes its own beauty and charm to the state’s rich biodiversity.

We are eager to hear from you: which butterfly captivated you the most in this list? Leave your answers in the comment section below.

Butterflies   Updated: July 26, 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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