30 Butterfly Species in Nebraska

Nebraska’s diverse eco-systems are home to a wide variety of fluttering beauties, including 30 remarkable butterfly species.

This article delves into these intriguing species, providing a detailed glimpse into their unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors.

Get ready to explore the world of Nebraska’s butterflies, observing their brilliant colors, striking patterns, and the distinct role each plays in Nebraska’s ecological balance.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

Cloudless Sulphur, scientifically known as Phoebis sennae, is a butterfly species you’ll find in Nebraska.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly often resides in open areas such as fields, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: It showcases a vibrant yellow color on its upper side and pale yellow underneath.
  • Size: You’ll notice their fairly large size, with a wingspan ranging from 2.25 to 3.1 inches (57-79 millimeters).
  • Diet: As adults, they feed on the nectar of various flowers, incorporating vibrant and deep-colored flowers into their diets.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on host plants, primarily the Senna and Partridge peas.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan varies, but they are known to have several broods each year.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars of the Cloudless Sulphur butterfly primarily feed on Senna and Partridge peas.

This butterfly is a joy to watch as it flutters from flower to flower in the warm Nebraska sun.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Meet the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a majestic butterfly of Nebraska.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: It primarily thrives in forests, urban parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: A compelling sight, the male specimens boast striking black tiger-like stripes set against a vibrant yellow backdrop, while the females may, on occasion, exhibit a darkened blue hue.
  • Size: Spanning a grand 3-5 inches (7.5-12.5 cm), they are a significant sight to behold.
  • Diet: As adults, the Swallowtails have a fancy for nectars from flowers including lilacs, honeysuckle, and milkweed. The caterpillar stage, however, sees a shift towards leaves of cherry and tulip trees.
  • Reproduction: The females lay their eggs on the host plants, ensuring a steady diet for the emergent caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: They live a brief, yet eventful life of around two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Cherry and tulip trees are the preferred host plants for this striking species.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak butterfly, scientifically known as Nymphalis antiopa, is a fascinating species. It’s common across Nebraska, so get ready to meet this local wonder.

You may even have seen it lounging in the woods.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: This resplendent creature adores woodland areas and neighborhoods with trees.
  • Appearance: The adults are dark brown with a vibrant yellow border and blue spots along the wing edges.
  • Size: Captivatingly, their wingspan flutters across 2 to 4 inches (50.8–101.6 mm).
  • Diet: Surprise! They love tree sap and rotting fruit more than nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay eggs in clusters on host-plant stems.
  • Lifespan: The adults have a considerable lengthy life up to 11 to 12 months.
  • Host Plants: Willow trees, American elms, and hackberries – these are their preferred nurseries.

By the way, they get the name Mourning Cloak from their somber wing colors reminiscent of traditional cloaks worn during periods of mourning. Their beauty still shines through, though!

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

The Zebra Heliconian is an intriguing creature you’d likely encounter in Nebraska.

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

  • Habitat: These beautiful creatures grace the open woodlands, glades, and subtropical thickets.
  • Appearance: The Zebra Heliconian is easy to spot, with their strikingly bold black and yellow-white stripes that grant them their ‘zebra’ moniker.
  • Size: These delicate beings span around 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.1 cm), a spectacle to behold in the wild.
  • Diet: The Zebra Heliconians are unique, feeding on both flower nectar and pollen, allowing them to live longer.
  • Reproduction: In reproductive terms, most butterflies lay their eggs on host plants; the female Zebra Heliconian follows suit.
  • Lifespan: Remarkably, Zebra Heliconians have a lifespan of about 6 months, far exceeding that of most other similar-sized butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Passion vines are their most preferred host plants where they lay eggs and the caterpillars feed.

These vibrant beings add a spectrum of color to Nebraska’s rich biodiversity.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail, a striking butterfly species, calls Nebraska home. Let’s familiarize ourselves with some of its unique characteristics.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This species typically exists in deciduous woods, fields, and marshes.
  • Appearance: Black bodies, with the upper surface of wings primarily black, accented with greenish-blue hues on the hind wings.
  • Size: Averages between 3.5 to 4.5 inches (8.8 to 11.4 cm) wing-span.
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, they feed mainly on spicebush and sassafras trees. The adult butterflies capitalize on the nectar of plants like honeysuckle, thistles, and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their single, green eggs on the leaves of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults generally live around 2 weeks to 2 months.
  • Host Plants: Spicebush, tuliptree, sweetbay, and sassafras are among its favorite host plants.

This beautifully designed creature, with its dark wings and the ability to skillfully blend into its surroundings, truly deserves appreciation.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is one of the common butterfly species you can observe in Nebraska.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Predominantly found in woodlands and urban areas where hackberry trees, their namesake, abound.
  • Appearance: Regularly exhibits a brown color, with a complex pattern of white spots and smoky patches on the upper side of their wings.
  • Size: Adult Hackberry Emperors measure about 2 to 3 inches (5-7.6 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: They feed on tree sap, rotten fruit, dung, and occasionally nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: During the breeding season, females lay single, green-colored eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their average lifespan is from one to two months.
  • Host Plants: Primary host plants for are Hackberry tree species upon which the larvae feed and develop.

A fun fact, Hackberry Emperors can often be seen flying near and sometimes landing on humans, a distinctive behavior of this species!

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

The Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) is a notable butterfly species that graces the Nebraska landscapes during the spring season.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find these in a variety of habitats, particularly woodland areas and gardens.
  • Appearance: These butterflies have delicate, iridescent blue on the top side of their wings. Their underwing is a mix of white, brown, and gray.
  • Size: Spring Azures have a wingspan that ranges between 0.75 to 1.25 inches (19mm to 32mm).
  • Diet: Adult Spring Azures feed on flower nectar and tree sap while larvae eat flower buds and leaves.
  • Reproduction: Female Spring Azures lay eggs on the flower buds that their caterpillars prefer to eat.
  • Lifespan: These butterflies usually live for around a year, with most lifespan spent in the pupal stage.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plants include flowering trees and shrubs like dogwood and hawthorn.

Falcate Orangetip (Anthocharis midea)

The Falcate Orangetip is one of the many fascinating butterfly species found in Nebraska. Springtime is the best time to spot these butterflies, thanks to their striking patterns and bright colors that draw attention.

Basking Falcate Orangetip

  • Habitat: They thrive in open woodlands and fields. Depending on the season, they often bounce between environments.
  • Appearance: The male showcases a bright orange tip on his wings, while the female dons a yellowish-white color.
  • Size: Adults tend to measure between 1.6 to 2.2 inches (4 to 5.6 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies feed on nectar of white flowers, particularly wild mustard ones.
  • Reproduction: The mating period lasts from March to May, with the female laying a single egg on flower buds.
  • Lifespan: The Falcate Orangetip usually lives to see one flight season, which occurs once per year.
  • Host Plants: Cruciferous plants serve as their main host plants. Specifically, they enjoy the rock cress and penny cress.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Imagine a flutter of orange and black wings in an elaborate dance through the Nebraska landscape.


  • Habitat: Monarch butterflies prefer open fields, meadows or anywhere milkweed plants grow.
  • Appearance: An iconic symbol, Monarchs are bright orange with black veins and borders. They also have small white spots on the borders.
  • Size: Monarchs can reach a wingspan of up to 4 inches (approx 10 cm).
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, they feed exclusively on milkweed. As butterflies, they feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females will lay their eggs singularly on the bottom of milkweed leaves.
  • Lifespan: Most Monarchs live for 2 to 6 weeks, but the last generation of the year, which migrates to Mexico, can live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Milkweeds are the primary host plants for Monarchs, providing a place for egg laying and a crucial food source for growing caterpillars.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

The Queen butterfly is a royal sight on the landscapes of Nebraska.

Queen Butterfly

  • Habitat: Opting for warmer climates, you’ll often find them flitting about open, sunny areas, including parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: Their wings are a mélange of dark brown and white spots, with a mesmerizing vein-like pattern.
  • Size: Queens typically boast of a wingspan ranging from 2.75 to 3.75 inches (7 to 9.5 cm).
  • Diet: Adults are partial to nectar from a variety of flowers, while larvae feast on food from the southern milkweed plant.
  • Reproduction: After mating, female Queen butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Though their average life span is only around six weeks, some survive for several months.
  • Host Plants: The larvae bank on milkweed species for nourishment, a genus comprising around 200 species of perennial flowering plants.

The Queen is a charming and integral part of Nebraska’s vibrant butterfly ballet.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

You will identify the Painted Lady or Vanessa cardui, by its distinct orange, black, and white markings.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in open spaces, gardens, and sunny, flowery areas.
  • Appearance: These butterflies have an orange-brown upper-side with black markings and forewings with white spots. The underwings have a more muted coloration, with brown, gray, and a bit of red.
  • Size: Measuring from 5-6 cm (2-2.5 inches), they’re not the biggest butterflies in Nebraska.
  • Diet: The adults are known to feed on the nectar of various flowers including thistles, red clover, and asters.
  • Reproduction: They can lay hundreds of eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan lasts about two weeks, which is spent migrating, mating, and laying eggs.
  • Host Plants: Thistles, mallows, and legumes can host their caterpillars. Giving them a wide range for growth and survival.

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

The Anise Swallowtail is a fascinating butterfly species found within Nebraska’s diverse habitats.

anise swallowtail butterfly

Here’s a bit about this striking insect:

  • Habitat: Predominantly in open areas and fields where flowering plants are abundant.
  • Appearance: It has bright yellow and black bands, with a blue and orange eyespot on its tail.
  • Size: Adults can reach an appreciable wingspan of roughly 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2cm).
  • Diet: Adult Anise Swallowtails feed on nectar from a range of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of eggs on the leaves of host plants, mainly those in the parsley family.
  • Lifespan: Anise Swallowtails live roughly one month as adults in the wild.
  • Host Plants: They prefer plants from the carrot family, including, but not limited to: Queen Anne’s lace, and fennel.

This unique butterfly species, with its vibrant color scheme and distinct life cycle, adds a dash of color and dynamism to Nebraska’s beautiful landscapes.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady butterfly is a truly striking sight, with a vibrant mix of orange, black, and white adorning their wings.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers open, sunny areas. Particularly fond of meadows and open fields.
  • Appearance: Distinguishable by two large eye spots on the bottom of the rear wing. Topside is predominantly orange, with black and white patterning.
  • Size: They boast a wingspan of about 2 – 2.75 inches (5-7 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies are known to nectar on a range of plants, including thistles and asters.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on the tops of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan can vary depending on the time they hatch. Those born in summer live a few weeks, while ones born in the fall can survive for up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed on a variety of plants but seem to prefer the leaves of plantain leaved pussy toes and other members of the Aster family.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The plane brown butterfly you’ve perhaps seen fluttering in your garden might be the Common Buckeye.

Common Buckeye butterfly

Here’s what to know:

  • Habitat: This species prefers open, sunny areas with low vegetation and some bare ground. Found in all continents except Antarctica.
  • Appearance: They sport eye-catching eyespots on their wings. The name ‘Buckeye’ derives from these markings, which resemble deer eyes.
  • Size: Adults attain a wingspan between 1.5 to 2.7 inches, or 38 to 70mm, a moderate dimension for butterflies.
  • Diet: The Common Buckeye feeds on nectar from a variety of flowering plants. The caterpillars gnaw on leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies reproduce up to three times a year, with females laying eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Once matured, a Common Buckeye typically lives for a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars consume several plants, such as the Snapdragon and Monkey flower.

The Common Buckeye is a captivating butterfly with its distinct eyespots.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

As you explore Nebraska’s flora and fauna, you’ll surely encounter the mesmerizing Giant Swallowtail, ‘Papilio cresphontes’.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These creatures inhabit many environments, including forests, swamps, and even residential areas.
  • Appearance: Boasting a black body with yellow crossbands and blue and red spots, they’re real eye-catchers.
  • Size: Giants indeed, these swallowtails span 4-6.25 inches, which is about 10-15 cm.
  • Diet: The adults sip nectar from a variety of flowers, while the caterpillars feed on citrus and other plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical, cream-colored eggs on leaves and twigs.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a rather short lifespan of about a month.
  • Host Plants: The larvae adore citrus plants, making lemon and orange trees popular host plants.

Not only are they a visual delight, but they help pollinate the flowers they feed on, contributing to Nebraska’s biodiversity.

Remember, these butterflies are part of the fabric that makes Nebraska the thriving ecosystem we all love.

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

The ‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple is a striking butterfly you can spot in Nebraska. Let’s dive into specifics about this fascinating species.

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

  • Habitat: They prefer deciduous woodlands and suburban areas.
  • Appearance: They sport a deep purple-blue shade with stark red spots.
  • Size: They boast a decent wingspan of 3 to 3.5 inches (7.6cm to 8.9cm).
  • Diet: This species enjoys a diet of nectar, rotting fruit, and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Their larvae go through multiple instar stages before reaching adulthood.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live for around 2 weeks in the mature stage.
  • Host Plants: They lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants, like willows and poplars.

Red-spotted Purples offer a stunning sight when fluttering around, truly embodying the beauty of Nebraska’s natural world.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly is an appealing species found in Nebraska.


  • Habitat: These butterflies prefer wet, open or shrubby areas such as marshes, swamps, and open fields.
  • Appearance: Viceroy butterflies exhibit a striking pattern of black and orange bands, very similar to the Monarch butterfly, which they mimic for protection.
  • Size: The Viceroy’s wingspan is typically between 2.5-3.1 inches (6.3-7.9 cm), making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: As adults, Viceroys feed on nectar from flowers like goldenrods, milkweeds and asters. Their caterpillars munch on leaves of cottonwood, willows and poplars.
  • Reproduction: They lay their eggs one by one on leaves of the host plants. The caterpillars are solitary.
  • Lifespan: The adult Viceroy butterfly typically lives for about two weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of Viceroy butterflies rely on trees in the willow family, such as willows, poplars, and cottonwoods, for food.

With their brilliant colors and interesting biology, the Viceroy is a truly fascinating member of Nebraska’s butterfly populace.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

The Gray Hairstreak, scientifically known as Strymon melinus, constitutes a fascinating variety within Nebraska’s butterfly fauna.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: Ranging from urban gardens to open fields, they adapt well in diverse locales.
  • Appearance: With their silver-grey wings marked with thin black lines and a small orange spot, these butterflies are instantly recognizable.
  • Size: A medium-sized species, their wings span about 1.1-1.4 inches (2.8-3.6 cm).
  • Diet: Their favored fare includes flower nectar from a variety of species.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs singly on various host plants.
  • Lifespan: A typical lifespan ranges from 1 to 2 months in adult stage.
  • Host Plants: They’re not picky eaters in the larval stage, munching on a wide range of legumes, malvaceae, or mallow family plants.

The Gray Hairstreak represents a versatile and adaptable species, thriving in Nebraska’s varied ecosystem.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

Among the 30 species of butterflies you can find in Nebraska is the Orange Sulphur, also known as Colias eurytheme.

This species brings a burst of color to the prairie landscapes and gardens across the state.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are ubiquitous across the U.S., making their homes in open environments like fields, parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Look for the male’s bright orange upperwings rimmed with a bold black border; females are lighter, sporting a yellow-white hue.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging between 1.3 to 2.3 inches (3.3 to 5.8 cm), this species is a small but noticeable presence.
  • Diet: Nectar lovers, they usually feed from clovers, milkweeds, asters, and goldenrods.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, pale green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: An adult’s lifespan is about a week, but the whole life cycle stretches over the summer season.
  • Host Plants: You’ll find them on alfalfa, clovers, and in the pea family plants; these are essential for their larvae.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary is an exotic butterfly species that is both striking and beautiful.

The color of its wings can range from bright orange to a darker reddish-brown, and its size is around 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm) in wingspan.

gulf fritillary

Some salient features of the Gulf Fritillary species are:

  • Habitat: This species is mostly found in different types of open, sunny areas, including deserts, roadsides, fields, pastures, and even residential areas with gardens.
  • Appearance: Covered in bright orange wings with black markings, they exhibit a lighter, almost silvery color on their underside.
  • Size: Adult Gulf Fritillaries have a wingspan of about 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies primarily feed on the nectar of various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaves of their host plants.
  • Lifespan: The life cycle of the Gulf Fritillary is about a month from egg to adult.
  • Host Plants: The larvae prefer passion vine plants. The caterpillars are more susceptible to predation due to their bright orange coloration.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

One of Nebraska’s enchanting residents is the Eastern Tailed-Blue.

Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: Commonly found in meadows, fields, and roadsides, they adore disturbed habitats.
  • Appearance: Sporting a gorgeous shade of blue on the upper side of their wings with a tiny tail on the hind wing, hence the name.
  • Size: They measure between 7/8 and 1 1/8 inches or 22 to 29 mm, considered among the smaller butterfly species.
  • Diet: Mainly nectar feeders, they weigh plant quality over quantity.
  • Reproduction: Breeding over spring to fall, they have multiple generations in their lifetime.
  • Lifespan: They generally live up to a week, some surviving even up to a month.
  • Host Plants: Clover, alfalfa, and other legumes serve as nutritious treats and breeding grounds.

Understanding the significance of each creature adds another layer of appreciation for Nebraska’s rich biodiversity. Next, we’ll skip to another Nebraska butterfly, the Viceroy.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The Clouded Sulphur, scientifically named Colias philodice, is an intriguing species of butterfly that is native to Nebraska.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Characteristically, you’ll find these butterflies in open spaces like meadows and fields.
  • Appearance: They exhibit yellow wings with black borders that complement their overall light green body.
  • Size: Generally, they range from 1.25 to 2 inches, approximately 3.2 to 5 cm in wingspan.
  • Diet: They feed mainly on the nectar of flowers as adults, whilst the caterpillars prefer the clover and alfalfa species.
  • Reproduction: The female butterfly lays green eggs on host plants. It undergoes a 5 stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, emergence, and adult.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is short, ranging from 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Different plants like alfalfa, clover, and vetch serve as host plants for the caterpillars. The Clouded Sulphur provides a delightful sight in Nebraska with its striking yellow and black colors.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

You’ll easily recognize Papilio polyxenes, or the Black Swallowtail, due to its distinctive black and yellow markings.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly mainly inhabits open fields, gardens, and lowlands.
  • Appearance: It features a black body with vibrant yellow stripes on its wings, and red and blue spots near the tail.
  • Size: Average wingspan ranges from 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm)
  • Diet: The Black Swallowtail nourishes itself on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Black Swallowtails lay their eggs on host plants, which serve as a food source for the hatched caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: This butterfly lives up to a year, making the most of the warmer seasons.
  • Host Plants: It prefers plants in the carrot family like Queen Anne’s lace and dill.

Renowned for its exquisite beauty, the Black Swallowtail butterfly is indeed a feather in Nebraska’s cap of diverse species.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is one of the most delightful butterfly species you can spot in Nebraska.

red admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Thriving in multiple environments, you can spot it in gardens, woods, and even parks.
  • Appearance: Its striking features include a chocolate-brown body, accented with broad, red stripes and white-spotted tips.
  • Size: It measures about 2 to 2.75 inches (5 to 7 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Their love for nectar leads them to feed on thistles, asters, and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: In May and June, the females lay greenish eggs on nettle leaves.
  • Lifespan: An average lifespan is about six weeks, extending to 11 months if they overwinter.
  • Host Plants: Nettle plants (Urtica dioica) serve as the perfect nurturing ground for their larvae.

This butterfly species is well adapted to different climates, guaranteeing sightings throughout summer and autumn.

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

The White Peacock is a distinctive butterfly that garners attention due to its stunning appearance.

White Peacock butterfly

Here’s the rundown:

  • Habitat: Wet, open, lowland areas like marshes, fields and waterfronts. Also found in subtropical everglade parks.
  • Appearance: White to cream-colored wings with a brownish wing tip. The center spot is tangerine-colored.
  • Size: Slightly large, with a wingspan ranging from 2.3 to 2.7 inches (5.8-6.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adults favor Aster, shepherd’s needle, and lantana in particular. The caterpillars prefer the leaves of different species of water hyssop.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on young leaves or flower buds. The life cycle following the egg stage is the caterpillar (larval) stage, chrysalis (pupa), then butterfly.
  • Lifespan: On average, the adulthood lasts about a week, but they can live up to a month.
  • Host Plants: Water Hyssop species (Bacopa), Popcorn Senna (Senna didymobotrya), and others.

What’s fascinating about the White Peacock butterfly is its slow, hovering flight pattern.

Common Mestra (Mestra amymone)

The Common Mestra is nothing short of fascinating. It’s worth noting that this butterfly species is prevalent in Central and North America, particularly in Nebraska.

Common mestra

  • Habitat: You’ll mostly find them in rocky and shrubby regions. In Nebraska, they prefer open woodlands and fields.
  • Appearance: The Common Mestra is unique with a chocolate-brown color and yellow stripe-like markings on the top side of its wings.
  • Size: It’s a medium-sized butterfly, with a wingspan that usually spans from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5.1 cm).
  • Diet: Caterpillars are herbivorous, feeding mainly on plants, while adults enjoy nectar from flowers like aster and thistle.
  • Reproduction: They are prolific; a female can lay several batches of eggs in one season.
  • Lifespan: It has a short lifespan with an average of 2-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars have a preference for ‘noseburn’ (trailing four o’clock) plants. It’s where the females lay their eggs.

The life of the Common Mestra is fleeting but no less enriching.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

Welcome to the world of the Cabbage White, known scientifically as Pieris rapae.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: Abundantly found in North America, these butterflies can also call Nebraska their home. They prefer open spaces with lots of vegetables and leafy greens.
  • Appearance: What sets the Cabbage Whites apart is their white wings adorned with black tips. The female is distinguishable by the two black spots on each wing.
  • Size: A general wingspan varies from 1.6 to 2.2 inches (4 to 5.5 cm), making it a butterfly of average size.
  • Diet: Their dietary preference includes nectars from various flowers such as the mustard family.
  • Reproduction: In spring, the female lays eggs singularly on the leaves of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: They live approximately two weeks in their butterfly stage.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed mainly on cabbage, hence their name, as well as other Brassicaceae species.

This fascinating creature is a common sight in Nebraska gardens, providing a fluttering exhibit of nature’s beauty.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple is an honorary resident of Nebraska and has captivated many with its uniquely attractive appearance.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Here, let’s shed light on its traits:

  • Habitat: This butterfly is often found in open woody areas and gardens.
  • Appearance: Its wings present a stunning mix of black, blue, and red, with a row of eye-catching red spots on the wings’ underside.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches (around 6 to 10 centimeters), it’s definitely eye-catching.
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, it feeds on leaves of assorted trees; as an adult, its diet includes rotting fruit and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Females lay the eggs solo on host plants, which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: While caterpillars can live up to two weeks, adult butterflies live for about one week.
  • Host Plants: Willows, aspens, and poplar trees often serve as host plants for these butterflies.

Isn’t their beauty and versatility fascinating?

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

You’ll love the Zebra Swallowtail, an extremely beautiful butterfly species. The sparkling strips against a white background make them stand out among foliage.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Ideal environments involve things like moist lowlands or river valleys. They also enjoy open woods and thickets.
  • Appearance: It bears long tails and a white body with distinctive black stripes, hence the name ‘Zebra’.
  • Size: This butterfly averages 2.75 – 4 inches (or 7 to 10 centimeters) in terms of wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult Zebra Swallowtails commonly feed on flower nectar or fermented fruit.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of pawpaw trees, which hatch caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Zebra Swallowtails usually live around 6 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars predominantly feed on pawpaw tree leaves.

If you’re lucky, you might spot this elusive butterfly in Nebraska. Often found near pawpaw trees, which serve as a key food source for their caterpillars.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a delight to behold, adding a touch of elegance to Nebraska’s diverse species of butterflies.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find this butterfly gracing an array of locales, from the lush meadows to overflowing gardens.
  • Appearance: The Pipevine Swallowtail boasts of iridescent blue wings, with distinct, eye-catching white spots lining the border.
  • Size: This butterfly measures about 3 to 3.5 inches (7.5 – 9 centimeters), making it a rather sizeable species.
  • Diet: Nectar from flowers constitutes its diet, with the butterfly particularly fond of thistles and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Males often engage in hill-topping, a mate-locating behavior unique to this species.
  • Lifespan: On average, the butterfly sees 6 weeks of flight. Its entire life cycle unfolds over 1 year.
  • Host Plants: Primary host plants include the Pipevine, making it an integral part of their lifecycle.

Discovering the Pipevine Swallowtail’s habits, quirks, and essential life facts indeed makes it one of the most interesting butterflies in Nebraska.


We’ve journeyed together across Nebraska to discover thirty fascinating butterfly species.

Each unique in their own way, from the majestic Monarch to the intricate Zebra Swallowtail, they all contribute to the biodiversity of Nebraska.

Could you spot any of these butterflies fluttering around? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Butterflies   Updated: August 10, 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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