30 Butterfly Species in Missouri

Discover the diverse world of butterfly species found in Missouri. This article will guide you through 30 different species, detailing their distinct traits, and behaviors.

Get ready to learn about these fascinating creatures, all in the comfort of your own home.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

First off, let’s discuss the uniquely captivating Zebra Swallowtail. With a name that immediately evokes an image of contrasting stripes, this butterfly does not disappoint.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Thriving primarily in moist, lowland areas, these creatures adore places near water such as streams and rivers.
  • Appearance: They possess black and white striped wings with red and blue spots, living up to their zebra moniker.
  • Size: They boast an impressive wingspan, typically between 2.6 and 4 inches (6.5 to 10 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, their main source of nourishment is nectar, but the juveniles enjoy munching on the leaves of the Pawpaw tree.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singularly on the Pawpaw leaves, where the larvae grow until they pupate.
  • Lifespan: Quite ephemeral, their life spans only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) serve as a crucial link to their survival, acting as both a food source and a nesting area.

Often, once you spot one, it’s hard not to watch the Zebra Swallowtail flutter by. Their bold patterns and attractive blue-tipped tails definitely make them an eye-catcher among Missouri’s butterfly fauna.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Also known as the Alfalfa Butterfly, the Orange Sulphur is a sight to behold. This butterfly is commonly found all around Missouri, so you probably have the chance to see it frequently.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Orange Sulphurs thrive in open environments, meadows, roadsides, and specially in alfalfa fields.
  • Appearance: These butterflies flaunt an orange-yellow coloring with a dark edge around their wings. The males exhibit brighter tones than females.
  • Size: The span of their wings range from about 1.3 to 2 inches (3.3 to 5.1 cm).
  • Diet: Mainly nectar from flowers like the alfalfa, red clover, and oxalis.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs, which turn yellow before hatching into green larvae.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan varies lasting up to three weeks in summer and up to nine months if emerged in late summer or fall.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on legumes, favorite ones include alfalfa, clovers, and vetches.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady or Vanessa virginiensis is a charming butterfly species that graces the Missouri environment.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is no stranger to meadows, sunny open areas, and even cultivated gardens.
  • Appearance: Look for the two large eye spots on the ventral side of the hind wings – that’s the American Lady. Upper surfaces exhibit a striking orange, black, and white pattern.
  • Size: Females are slightly larger than males, with a wingspan ranging from 2 to 2.75 inches (5-7 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies feed on flower nectar and occasionally take on aphid honeydew.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs on host plants, which then give birth to bristle-filled caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a short life of approximately 2 weeks, but the species produces multiple generations each year.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include cudweed, burdock, and pearly everlasting.

You’ll enjoy observing the life cycle of this delightful species.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy is another remarkable butterfly species calling Missouri its home.

Viceroy butterfly

  • Habitat: Viceroys are often found in marshy areas and wet meadows, but they can adapt to other areas where their host plants grow.
  • Appearance: They are incredibly similar to the Monarch butterfly, with a striking orange and black pattern. However, they have a black line across their hind wings, making them distinguishable.
  • Size: This species has a wingspan of about 2.5-3 inches (6.35 – 7.62 cm)
  • Diet: As adults, they feed on flowers nectar. Their caterpillars, however, munch on the leaves of willow and poplar trees.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the underside of leaves, giving rise to the next generation of butterflies.
  • Lifespan: While the adults typically live for about two weeks, the entire life cycle spans over several months.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars vastly depend on willow, aspen, and cottonwood. These trees offer both shelter and food for these developing larvae.

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

Discover the world of the Melissa Blue. This insect has a distinct relevance to Missouri’s ecosystem.

Melissa Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: Ordinarily, you’ll find the Melissa Blue frequenting meadows, plains, and dunes.
  • Appearance: They possess striking silver-blue wings with orange spots on their edges. Female wings show a brown tint.
  • Size: Small yet bold, they span around 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feast on flower nectar, while their larvae prefer alfalfa and clovers.
  • Reproduction: Males patrol their habitat for receptive females, and clusters of white eggs follow successful courtship.
  • Lifespan: Although exact life-extent varies, caterpillars often overwinter, unveiling their butterfly form in the spring.
  • Host Plants: The food plants of choice are typically from the legume family, with preference for alfalfa, black medic, and lupine.

Next time you’re out in the wild, see if you can spot one! It’ll certainly add a touch of color to your day.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

The Queen butterfly is one of the stunning species that grace the skies of Missouri.

Queen Butterfly

Here’s a quick highlight of what to expect:

  • Habitat: Queens enjoy a warm climate and are often found in sunny open areas with wildflowers.
  • Appearance: They have striking wings with black borders and veins, and a pattern of white spots on an orange-brown background.
  • Size: Adult Queens typically span between 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Queens feed on nectar from flowers, while caterpillars eat the leaves of milkweed plants.
  • Reproduction: After mating, female Queens lay their eggs singly on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: They live for about two weeks, whereas caterpillars and pupae stages last about 10 to 15 days each.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed plants, mainly the Asclepias species, are the chosen host plants.

The Queen butterfly is a magnificent species that adds color to the Missouri landscape. It’s one of the 30 butterfly species that make a home in this region.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma, scientifically known as Polygonia comma, is a distinct species of butterfly that graces Missouri’s landscapes.

Eastern Comma butterfly

  • Habitat: Its natural habitat includes woodlands and forest edges in North America.
  • Appearance: It boasts orange-brown upper wings with dark spots. Underneath, their wings possess a silvery comma-shaped mark, from which their name originates.
  • Size: Generally, Eastern Commas range from 1.6 to 2.7 inches (4 to 7 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: This unique butterfly feeds mainly on tree sap, rotting fruit, and the nectar of flowers from plants such as milkweed.
  • Reproduction: In spring, the females lay green-colored eggs on the host plants where after hatching, the caterpillars feed aggressively.
  • Lifespan: While adult Eastern Commas primarily live for about a month, the last generation of the season can survive until the following spring.
  • Host Plants: Their chosen host plants are usually nettles, elms and hops.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Have you ever come across the Black Swallowtail? Its distinctive black wings with yellow spots are hard to overlook. In the wild, this butterfly is commonly spotted in open fields and gardens.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Black Swallowtail butterflies can adapt to different environments. Love gardening? You would find them dwelling in your garden. They are mostly found in open fields and near road sides.
  • Appearance: The backside of an adult butterfly has two rows of yellow spots. The large, stunning wings have a distinctive look, with black and yellow coloring.
  • Size: Quite impressive! Wings can stretch between 3.1 and 4.3 inches, or 7.9 to 10.9 cm.
  • Diet: Nectar from plants such as milkweed and red clover, the Black Swallowtail enjoys a sweet treat.
  • Reproduction: Females lay yellow-colored eggs on host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: About 10 to 12 days for adults. Meanwhile, egg, caterpillar and pupa stages last about 35 days.
  • Host Plants: Dill, parsley, and carrot are some host plants for the Black Swallowtail. Be sure to have these in your garden and you might spot one.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye, otherwise known as Junonia coenia, is a fascinating species to behold.

Common Buckeye butterfly

Explore the unique facets of this butterfly:

  • Habitat: They can be found in various settings including meadows, roadsides, and even your own backyard.
  • Appearance: On their brown wings, they flaunt bold eye spots, providing them a shielding advantage against potential predators.
  • Size: Typically, they boast a wingspan between 1.5 to 2.75 inches (3.8 to 7 cm).
  • Diet: This butterfly subsists predominantly on nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Post-mating, the female lays her eggs on the leaves of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: They generally live for up to two weeks, with the mature adult butterflies often living longer.
  • Host Plants: They predominantly use species like Snapdragon and False Foxglove for laying eggs and caterpillar nourishment.

Understandably, with their stunning visual appeal, the Buckeyes quite literally serve as the ‘eye’ candy in the butterfly world!

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Your attention might get caught by the Great Spangled Fritillary, known scientifically as Speyeria cybele. This butterfly certainly knows how to make a statement!

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: They frequent sunny locations in fields, gardens, and near water sources.
  • Appearance: This species possesses beautiful, spotted orange wings filled with black markings, darker on the females.
  • Size: They have a substantial wingspan, reaching between 2.5 to 4 inches (6.35-10.16 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies primarily feed on nectar from thistles and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs late in the season which hatch the following spring.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for approximately 1 month, and overwinter as caterpillars.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed on violets (Viola species), hence the adults are often found in habitats where violets are present.

A wonder of nature, this butterfly adds vibrant color in any Missouri garden. It’s a thrill to behold!

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarchs are well-known for their gorgeous black, orange and white wing pattern and their startling transcontinental migrations.


  • Habitat: They are found across North America, specifically in Missouri’s prairies, fields, meadows, and residential areas.
  • Appearance: Monarchs boast vibrant orange wings with black veins and edges, dotted with white spots.
  • Size: Their wingspan ranges between 3.5-4 inches (9-10 cm).
  • Diet: Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed plants whereas adults extract nectar from a wide range of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Monarchs observe four generations in a year. Females lay eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves.
  • Lifespan: An adult Monarch can live up to 9 months in the wild, a period that encompasses an epic migration.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed is their primary host plant which serves as a food source for caterpillars and a place for egg-laying.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

Commonly found fluttering across Missouri, the Common Checkered-Skipper or Pyrgus communis is indeed worth observing.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

  • Habitat: Thrives in sunny, disturbed spaces like roadsides, vacant lots, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Exhibits a noticeable mottled black and white checkered pattern on wings.
  • Size: Smaller in stature, typically 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 centimeters) in wingspan.
  • Diet: The adults sip nectar from various flowers, offering an elegant sight.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the leaves of the host plant, often hibiscus.
  • Lifespan: Butterflies last around 1 month, but the cycle from egg to adult takes around 40 days.
  • Host Plants: Prefers herbaceous plants, such as hibiscus and species in the mallow family.

Their distinctive pattern and fluttering flight make them easy to identify, offering amateur lepidopterists a good starting point.

Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

The Sleepy Orange is a butterfly recognized for its unique attributes. Notably, its distinct texture and colors make it stand out among its counterparts.

Sleepy Orange butterfly

  • Habitat: They are frequently found in open areas, like fields and near roadsides.
  • Appearance: The butterfly flaunts a bright orange color accentuated by deep black markings.
  • Size: Typically, the adults span 1.5-2.75 inches (4-7 cm) wide.
  • Diet: The Sleepy Orange butterfly feeds on nectar from flowers including dogbane, clover, and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: After mating, the female attaches her eggs to the host plant leaves. Each egg hatches into a caterpillar.
  • Lifespan: Although the lifespan is not precisely known, adults usually live a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars primarily feed on plants from the pea family.

Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)

The Great Purple Hairstreak is a true spectacle in the butterfly world. Boasting a color palette of blue, black, and red, this butterfly can be spotted fluttering around the southern states of America, including Missouri.

Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus corcorani

  • Habitat: It can thrive in a terrarium that mimics a subtropical environment or anywhere there’re its preferred host plants.
  • Appearance: This species has a stunning purple-blue shine on the underside of its wings, combined with red-orange spots near the tail and white edgings.
  • Size: The Great Purple Hairstreak has a wingspan of up to 1.5 inches, or around 38 millimeters.
  • Diet: As adults, they sip nectar from a variety of flowering plants, while caterpillars feed on the leaves of their host plant.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on new growth of the host plants; their caterpillars are usually found on mistletoe.
  • Lifespan: Adult Great Purple Hairstreak butterflies live for about one month.
  • Host Plants: Its larvae are dependent on Mistletoe plant species which are parasitic on trees.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a captivating butterfly species that’s quite common in Missouri.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies live in various environments. They favor wooded areas, fields, and especially places near rivers or streams.
  • Appearance: Their large wings display a lovely yellow color with black tiger-like stripes, and males are brighter than females.
  • Size: They are large butterflies, with a wingspan between 3.1 to 5.5 inches (8 to 14 centimeters).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feast on the leaves of host plants. Adults mainly feed on nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: After mating, the females lay eggs on host plants, from which caterpillars hatch.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies typically live around a month, transitioning from caterpillar to butterfly in the span of about 4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: They lay their eggs on a variety of host plants, including the tulip tree, black cherry, and wild black cherry.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary is one of the many beautiful butterfly species you can spot in Missouri. Its vibrant colors and unique characteristics make it an interesting creature to study.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: You’ll commonly find this butterfly in open sunny areas, gardens and fields in Southern Missouri.
  • Appearance: Its impressive beauty owes to the deep orange and black colors on its upper wings, contrasted by stunning silver spots on the lower wings.
  • Size: They range from 6 to 9.5 cm (2.4 to 3.7 inches), a fair size which gives a decent view of their striking features correctly.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers, including lantana and passion flower is their preferred meal.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Generally up to three weeks, though adult females can live longer.
  • Host Plants: The Passion vines are its host plant, where they lay eggs and where young caterpillars feed.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple—or scientifically known as Limenitis arthemis—is another butterfly species to marvel at.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: They often inhabit deciduous woods and areas with cherry trees or poplars.
  • Appearance: These captivating butterflies lay claim to a range of colors, with blue-black wings having a sprinkling of white and red spots.
  • Size: Average size runs from 2.5 to 4 inches (63.5-101.6mm), allowing it to be easily spotted.
  • Diet: Button-bush, privet, and rotting fruit are their go-to food sources. Males even sip minerals from mud.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females deposit eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies tend to live for no longer than two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Willows, cottonwood, and aspen are among their favorites.

This species, unlike many, has two morphs— dark and red—providing further exposure to incredible variation within the butterfly world.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Meet the Giant Swallowtail, noted to be one of the largest among butterfly species spotted in Missouri.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is highly adaptable and can be observed in various settings, including forests, citrus groves, and gardens.
  • Appearance: It’s impossible to miss the striking brown and yellow colors of the Giant Swallowtail. They wear this fascinating pattern of color on their broad wings which is a sight to behold.
  • Size: They impress with a wingspan ranging from 4.5 to 6 inches (11.43 to 15.24 cm).
  • Diet: The Giant Swallowtail feeds primarily on the nectar of a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their spherical, cream-colored eggs on the leaves of their preferred host plants.
  • Lifespan: Typically, this species lives from 6 to 14 days as adults.
  • Host Plants: Some of their favorite host plants include trees and herbs in the citrus family, such as orange and lemon trees.

Indeed, the Giant Swallowtail is a creature of majesty and beauty.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

Cabbage White is an easily recognizable butterfly that can be found throughout Missouri.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: It thrives in a wide variety of environments, from farmlands and gardens to open woods.
  • Appearance: Its delicate, white wings are adorned with one to four black spots, with a light gray underwing color. The female has two spots while the male only one.
  • Size: The wing span varies from 1.3 to 2 inches (32 to 50 mm).
  • Diet: The adults gather food from many kinds of flowers, including mustard and mint.
  • Reproduction: Each female can lay up to 200 eggs on their host plants, which become mature butterflies in about a month.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is about a month during summer, while the last generation each year overwinters as pupae, emerging as adults in spring.
  • Host Plants: Their caterpillars feed on members of the mustard family, hence its common name “Cabbage” White.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, or Nymphalis antiopa, is a distinct butterfly species you might encounter in Missouri.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot these butterflies in wooded areas, parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Donning dark brown wings with an exquisite yellowish border and blue spots, they’re just as their name suggests: clad in the colors of traditional mourning attire.
  • Size: With a wingspan typically measuring 2.25 to 4 inches (5.7 to 10.2 cm), they’re quite large.
  • Diet: Mourning Cloaks are fond of rotting fruit, tree sap, and plant nectar.
  • Reproduction: They lay clusters of eggs on twigs of their favorite host plants.
  • Lifespan: Interestingly, these butterflies can live up to 11-12 months, one of the longest lifespans for a butterfly.
  • Host Plants: Willow, elm, and hackberry trees act as main host plants for the Mourning Cloak larvae.

Despite their somber name, Mourning Cloaks add a unique vibrancy to the butterfly population of Missouri.

‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

This unique butterfly, known as the ‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple, is a beauty to behold. It’s a subspecies of the Red-spotted Purple family and is one of Missouri’s most distinguished visitors.

‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

  • Habitat: They prefer rural and suburban areas and can often be found near streams and woodland edges.
  • Appearance: The butterfly is notable for its shiny blue-black color that shimmers in the sunlight. Red spots adorn its wings alongside white bands which create a striking contrast.
  • Size: The Red-spotted Purple generally measures between 3 to 3.5 inches (7.6cm to 8.9cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: This adult butterfly feeds on tree sap, feces, carrion, and only occasionally on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: In one year, there are two generations. The first in May and June, and the second from July to October.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is around a year, with most of it spent as a dormant pupa during the winter.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillar primarily feeds on the leaves of wild cherry and birch.

Their peculiar diet and stunning appearance indeed make them an interesting species among Missouri butterflies.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark butterflies are one of the unique species found in Missouri.

Question Mark butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly loves deciduous woodland areas and can sometimes be found in gardens.
  • Appearance: Like it’s name suggests, it has a characteristically shaped mark on the underside of its wings, which resembles a question mark.
  • Size: Adults have a wingspan that can reach up to 2.75 inches (approximately 7cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies are attracted to rotting fruit and tree sap rather than flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on host plants; hackberries and elms are typically used for this purpose.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of the Question Mark butterfly is approximately 2 months.
  • Host Plants: Apart from hackberries and elms, they also use nettles and hops as host plants.

Rest assured, if you come across this insect in Missouri, you can immediately identify it by its unique wing markings.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper, scientifically named Epargyreus clarus, is a noteworthy butterfly species found in Missouri. This butterfly is often seen during the summertime, from June to August.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: They commonly reside in open fields, gardens, and even roadsides.
  • Appearance: Their wings possess a unique orange-brown color, with a distinct silver-white spot on the hindwing, giving them their name.
  • Size: These skippers have a wingspan ranging from 1.75 to 2.5 inches (4.5 to 6 cm).
  • Diet: As butterflies, they primarily feed on nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female skippers lay their eggs singly on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: The adult silver-spotted skippers have a lifecycle of approximately one month.
  • Host Plants: They predominantly use legumes as their host plants, especially those in the Fabaceae family.

Known for their quick, erratic flight patterns, these butterflies add a sense of dynamism and beauty to the Missouri landscape.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is a beautiful butterfly you’ve likely seen fluttering around Missouri.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is unique for its cosmopolitan distribution, meaning it’s found pretty much everywhere in the world, including Missouri.
  • Appearance: Characterized by orange wings with black and white spots, the Painted Lady is a truly fascinating sight to see.
  • Size: The butterfly spans around 2 to 2.9 inches (5.1 to 7.3 centimeters).
  • Diet: The adult Painted Lady feeds on nectar, favoring thistles, aster, cosmos, blazing star, and ironweed.
  • Reproduction: During breeding, females lay eggs on the top of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The entire life cycle of the Painted Lady, from egg to adult butterfly, typically lasts about a month.
  • Host Plants: For caterpillars, thistles, hollyhock and malva are preferred host plants.

Observing Painted Lady in the wild can indeed be a fantastic experience. Their burst of colors and charm make them a sight worth pausing to admire.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper, known scientifically as Lycaena phlaeas, is a charming butterfly that can be found across Missouri.

American Copper butterfly

  • Habitat: Regularly visiting fields and meadows, these butterflies prefer open, sunny spaces.
  • Appearance: Their wings are a striking mix of warm orange & brown hues with a distinct pattern. The undersides are gray with spots, making them expert camouflagers.
  • Size: They are small, with a wingspan ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm), but what they lack in size is made up in their vibrancy.
  • Diet: The caterpillars feed on leaves of sheep’s sorrel and other common green plants. Liquids from overripe fruit and flower nectar are favored by adults.
  • Reproduction: There are generally two generations per year, with females laying eggs on the undersides of leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a lifespan of about 3 weeks, giving them a fleeting yet vivid presence in their habitat.
  • Host Plants: Sheep’s sorrel plants are welcome resting spots for this species, providing an ideal location for feeding and egg-laying.

Look out for these intricate critters and their beautiful, fluttering displays on a sunny day.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

The Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) is a charming presence across Missouri’s diverse habitats.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: You might stumble upon them in moist woodlands and edges of forests or even in your well-maintained garden.
  • Appearance: These butterflies exhibit a delicate pale blue hue on their upper wings, blending with the spring sky.
  • Size: Slightly small in size, they span 1 to 1.3 inches (2.5 to 3.3 cm) in width.
  • Diet: They mostly prefer feeding on flower nectar, favoring the offerings of blueberries and marjoram plants.
  • Reproduction: Their mating season occurs in early spring. The females lay eggs on the flower buds.
  • Lifespan: A Spring Azure butterfly lives up to 10 days in their butterfly form.
  • Host Plants: Surprisingly, the larvae feed on a variety of plants including blueberries and New Jersey tea.

This butterfly plays a vital role in pollination, thus exhibiting a vital interaction with the ecosystem.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

Meet the Pipevine Swallowtail, a species native to Missouri. Belonging to the family Papilionidae, these butterflies are a true spectacle.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

Now, let’s delve into their world and learn more about them:

  • Habitat: They’re found in various environments, including woods, fields, and city gardens.
  • Appearance: Sporting a blue-black color, their beauty stands out. The underside of the hindwing sports a row of bright, iridescent blue spots.
  • Size: They can reach a wingspan of 3-3.5 inches or 7.62-8.89 cm.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feast on pipevine leaves. As adults, they sip nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay rows of tiny, reddish-orange eggs on the pipevine plant.
  • Lifespan: The adult Pipevine Swallowtails live for about a month.
  • Host Plants: Woolly Pipevine and Virginia Snakeroot are among their favorites.

Seeing these creatures flutter is indeed a magnificent sight. Remember, every butterfly species adds to the biodiversity of our planet.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is a fascinating butterfly species, easily identified by its black wings and vibrant red bands.

red-admiral butterfly

Let’s delve into some key features of this enchanting flyer:

  • Habitat: Thriving in various environments, it can be seen in moist woods, parks, gardens, or yards.
  • Appearance: Its primary color is black, with striking red bands and white spots on the wingtips, forming a distinct pattern.
  • Size: Medium-sized, their wingspan stretches between 2-3.5 inches (5-9 centimeters).
  • Diet: Known as nectar feeders, these get their nourishment from various flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Red Admirals lay singular green eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Typically, they tend to live for about 6 months.
  • Host Plants: Favoured host plants include nettles and false nettles.

Observing the Red Admiral grace your garden with its captivating flight is indeed a remarkable experience.

Its unique diet and reproduction habits make it an interesting butterfly species in Missouri.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Gray Hairstreak, scientifically known as Strymon melinus, is among the most common yet distinctive butterflies you’ll encounter in Missouri.

Its unique characteristics and widespread population make it a fascinating creature.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly enjoys various kinds of environments ranging from prairies to urban gardens.
  • Appearance: It stands out with its gray-brown wings underneath, graced with red or post-median spots.
  • Size: Its size typically varies from about 1 – 1.5 inches (2.54cm to 3.8cm).
  • Diet: Primarily nectars from a wide variety of flowers like mints and milkweeds.
  • Reproduction: Multiple generations are born each year, usually from May to early October.
  • Lifespan: Gray hairstreak boasts a fair lifespan with adults living up to ten days.
  • Host Plants: This adaptable species are associated with numerous host plants, from cotton, to legume, and even mallow families.

Enjoy spotting this lovely creature during your next outdoor escapade in Missouri!

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

The Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius) is a striking species.

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

  • Habitat: Primarily found in sunny, open areas like gardens and edges of woodlands in subtropical to tropical regions.
  • Appearance: Boasts unique longwing markings in black and yellow stripes, hence the name ‘zebra’.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 3.5 to 4 inches (89 to 101 mm), it presents quite a spectacular sight.
  • Diet: Takes an unusual approach by sipping pollen along with nectar, contributing to their longevity.
  • Reproduction: Capable of mating multiple times, females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Quite impressive compared to other butterflies, reaching up to 6 months in their adult form.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on different species of passionflower vine (Passiflora). Adult food sources include lantana and shepherd’s needle.

This butterfly, with its distinct appearance and habits, is truly a marvel of the natural world.


In conclusion, Missouri offers a diverse range of captivating butterfly species, each with unique identifying characteristics.

From the red-spotted purple’s bold colors to the sweet simplicity of the cabbage white, there’s a butterfly species in Missouri that’ll surely enchant you.

What’s your favorite one of the 30 butterflies listed above? Feel free to share your comments below.

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.

Leave a Comment

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