30 Butterfly Species in New Mexico

Get ready to dive headfirst into the fascinating world of New Mexico’s butterfly species.

This expository piece will open your eyes to 30 remarkable butterflies, each a vibrant testament to the region’s rich biodiversity.

You’ll journey through their unique characteristics, habitat, behavior and more in this informative exploration.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary is a bright, showy species that grace New Mexico’s skies.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: Often seen in open, sunny areas. They favor gardens, parks, and fields.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is hard to miss with its vivid orange wings speckled with black spots. Its silver-spotted underwings hence the name ‘fritillary,’ derived from the Latin term for ‘dice box.’
  • Size: Boasts a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.89 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on the nectar of flowers such as lantana while caterpillars feast on passion vines.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars which form chrysalises before emerging as butterflies.
  • Lifespan: Adult Gulf Fritillaries live for approximately three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larvae’s primary food source is the passionflower vine.

This butterfly species is a critical pollinator in our ecosystem and a brilliant spot of color in the New Mexican landscape.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a small yet charming butterfly species predominantly found across various parts of North America. It adds charisma to the natural beauty of New Mexico.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly can be found in a variety of habitats such as open woodlands, meadows, and farmlands.
  • Appearance: The Eastern Tailed-Blue displays striking blue upper wings in males while females have dark grayish-blue wings. Both genders possess a small tail on each of their hind wings.
  • Size: This petite butterfly generally measures between 0.75 to 1.25 inches or 19 to 32 millimeters in wingspan.
  • Diet: The adults enjoy nectar from various flowers like clover and dogbane, while the larvae enjoy legumes.
  • Reproduction: Females usually lay eggs on the buds of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan runs for about a week or two as an adult butterfly.
  • Host Plants: Primary host plants include various species of the pea family like clovers and alfalfa.

Fatal Metalmark (Calephelis nemesis)

Meet the Fatal Metalmark (Calephelis nemesis), a beautiful butterfly species found in New Mexico.

Its name may sound ominous, but the Fatal Metalmark is harmless and captivating for butterfly enthusiasts.

Fatal Metalmark - Calephelis nemesis, Kartchner Caverns State Park, Benson, Arizona

  • Habitat: These butterflies are typically found in arid desert and grassland environments. They love sunny, open areas.
  • Appearance: They have a metallic dark reddish-brown color with light bands on the wings which makes them quite distinctive.
  • Size: The Fatal Metalmark is somewhat petite, with a wingspan reaching about 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, they are known to feed on flower nectar, while their caterpillar stage feeds on the leaves of the host plant.
  • Reproduction: They lay single eggs on the tops of leaves or flower buds of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of the Fatal Metalmark is around 1 month.
  • Host Plants: The Fatal Metalmark caterpillars usually feed on the Rosaceae family of plants, including some kinds of wild buckwheat.

Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo)

Meet the Sleepy Duskywing, a fascinating butterfly species indigenous to New Mexico. Also known as Erynnis brizo, this little creature has attributes that will leave you captivated.

Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo)

  • Habitat: Sleepy Duskywing resides primarily in forest edges and open woodlands.
  • Appearance: They’re dark brown with a dusting of lighter, grayish scaling and an unmarked hindwing rendering a sleepy, dusky look.
  • Size: Typical wingspan measures between 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm), not oppressively large, but sizable enough to spot.
  • Diet: Adult Duskywings savor flower nectar, while caterpillars enjoy a diet of oak leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Lifespan ranges from a few weeks up to a month unlike other butterfly species which live longer.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plants are scrub oaks, including blackjack oak and bluejack oak.

While the Sleepy Duskywing may not possess the vibrant hues of some butterflies, it has a subdued beauty that personifies the tranquility of its forest home.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

The Monarch, scientifically termed Danaus plexippus, is a familiar sight in New Mexico.


  • Habitat: Primarily found in open fields and meadows. They perform an impressive migration to Mexico every fall.
  • Appearance: Distinguished by its vibrant orange and black pattern, with a touch of white spots on the wing edges.
  • Size: Adult Monarchs reach 3.5–4 inches (8.9–10.1 cm) in wing span, easily recognized by their size.
  • Diet: Caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves, while adult Monarchs rely on nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny, singular eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. In about 4 days, a caterpillar emerges.
  • Lifespan: Typically 2–6 weeks for summer generations. Winter generation, which migrates to Mexico, can live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Monarchs are dependent on milkweed plants as they are integral to their life cycle; making them the primary host plants.

As you explore New Mexico, keep an eye out for these iconic butterflies.

Silver Emperor (Doxocopa laure)

The Silver Emperor (Doxocopa laure) is quite a spectacle. This butterfly species is known for its delicate beauty and is commonly spotted in New Mexico.

Silver Emperor (Doxocopa laure)

  • Habitat: Generally, they dwell in lush forest regions, particularly in areas with plenty of shade and fresh water.
  • Appearance: The Silver Emperor showcases a magnificent shimmering silver-blue color on the upper side of their wings, and a mottled gray underneath.
  • Size: The wingspan of these butterflies usually measures about 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm).
  • Diet: In their caterpillar state, they consume leaves, but as adults, they primarily sip on the nectar of flowers.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay eggs on the undersides of host plant leaves. The caterpillars emerge and feed on these leaves.
  • Lifespan: The Silver Emperor, like most butterfly species, has a lifespan of about one month as an adult.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae feed on the leaves of the Inga species, a genus of tropical trees and shrubs in the pea family.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

The Common Checkered-Skipper is a frequent visitor in New Mexico.

Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)

  • Habitat: Varied, found in temperate to tropical climates, often in open sunlit areas.
  • Appearance: Identified by the chequered dark and light pattern on its wings. The underwings are cream-colored with brown spots.
  • Size: Small, with a wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies thrive on nectar from a variety of flowers. Caterpillars will feed mainly on mallow plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical, greenish eggs underneath the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for approximately one month.
  • Host Plants: Mainly, mallow family plants – they provide nourishment to caterpillars.

This species’ variations in size, color, and habitat preference often make it difficult to identify. Despite this, their striking checkered pattern makes them a delightful encounter.

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

You might have seen the Zebra Heliconian butterfly. It’s one of the enchanting butterfly species you can spot in New Mexico. This tropical beauty has a charm that is almost hypnotic.

Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)

  • Habitat: Zebra Heliconians primarily frequent subtropical forests and open, sunny areas like gardens.
  • Appearance: The butterfly boasts a unique pattern of alternating black and bright yellow stripes, along with two small brownish tails.
  • Size: Generally, their wingspan varies from 2.8 to 3.5 inches (7 to 9 centimeters).
  • Diet: They feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers and also consume pollen, which, interestingly enough, extends their lifespan.
  • Reproduction: Females selectively lay eggs on passion vines, which serve as food for the larvae.
  • Lifespan: Unlike other butterflies, Zebra Heliconians can live up to six months due to their unique diet of pollen and nectar.
  • Host Plants: Primarily, Passion vines are their host plants as they are the preferred nutrition source for the developing larvae.

Rocky Mountain Parnassian (Parnassius smintheus)

The Rocky Mountain Parnassian is an appealing butterfly species found in New Mexico.

Rocky Mountain Parnassian - Parnassius smintheus

  • Habitat: Prefers open montane regions with plenty of alpine flowers. Despite their name, they can also be discovered at lower altitudes in certain regions.
  • Appearance: The upper wings are largely white with black markings near the apex. The hindwings are lightly veined and marked with red.
  • Size: These butterflies typically display a wingspan of about 2.5 to 3 inches (6.33 to 7.62 cm).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on ‘stonecrop’, ‘shale barren talinum’ and ‘fameflower’. As adults, they enjoy nectar from alpine flowers.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place in summer, with females laying eggs on the underside of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live briefly, only around two weeks, while larvae overwinter and pupate in the spring.
  • Host Plants: ‘Stonecrop’, ‘fameflower’ and ‘shale barren talinum’ are host plants for this species’ larvae. They offer a safe place for laying eggs and supply food to the larvae.

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing butterfly is a common sight in New Mexico. It’s endemic to North America and can be seen from Spring to Fall.

Horace's Duskywing butterfly

  • Habitat: Adapted to diverse environments, you can spot them in forests, parks, and gardens.
  • Appearance: They are chocolate brown with dusty, grayish overscales. Their wings exhibit small, light-colored spots.
  • Size: Typically, they span from 1.25 to 1.5 inches (3.2 to 4 cm), fitting snugly in an adult’s palm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies quench their thirst on flower nectar while caterpillars munch on oak leaves.
  • Reproduction: Female duskywings lay eggs on the host plants. These hatch into caterpillars and eventually transform into pupa before maturation.
  • Lifespan: From egg to adult, they live up to a couple of months, typical for butterfly species.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars preferring oak species, finding a particular liking for the red and white variants.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

The Cabbage White, aptly named due to its fondness for cabbage-like plants, is a familiar sight in New Mexico. It’s time to get acquainted with this species.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers open, disturbed areas like agricultural fields, roadsides, or gardens.
  • Appearance: Donned with white wings, faint greenish veins on the underside of the wings, and one or two black spots on the upperside.
  • Size: Quite petite, with a wingspan of 1.5-2 inches (3.8-5 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adult Cabbage Whites feed on flower nectar, while caterpillars feed on leaves of cabbage family plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay yellowish spindle-shaped eggs on host plants where caterpillars feed and develop.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived, adults typically live for 2-3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars enjoy munching on a variety of plants from the mustard family, such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale.

Get to know these humble butterflies and you’ll find them fascinating. You might even spot them in your nearest garden!

Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)

The Fiery Skipper is a lively butterfly species found in New Mexico.

Fiery Skipper butterfly

Here’s more about this petite creature:

  • Habitat: You can spot Fiery Skippers in urban areas, grassy spots, and sunny open spaces, particularly where Bermuda grass grows.
  • Appearance: Their name “Fiery” reflects the male’s bright yellow-orange wings adorned with black borders and spots. Females are lighter, predominantly brown with small patches of orange.
  • Size: Though small, they are eye-catching. Both males and females are about 1 inch (2.54 cm) in size.
  • Diet: These butterflies relish nectars from flowers like lantana, aster, milkweed, and miss molly.
  • Reproduction: Females spread the eggs on the leaves of their host plants. The hatched caterpillars feed on these leaves.
  • Lifespan: Fiery Skippers, as with other butterflies, live up to 2-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: They preferably use Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), crab grass (Digitaria), or St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) to lay their eggs.

Melissa Blue (Plebejus melissa)

The Melissa Blue butterfly is one of the charming species you can encounter in New Mexico.

Melissa Blue butterfly

Here’s a brief rundown of its characteristics:

  • Habitat: Prefers grasslands and meadows, thriving particularly at higher elevations.
  • Appearance: It’s captivating; with a beautiful blue shade on the upper side, and grey with black spots on the underside.
  • Size: It’s petite, with a wingspan mere 1.3 inches (about 3.3 cm).
  • Diet: This creature feeds primarily on the nectar of the flowers.
  • Reproduction: It’s a seasonal breeder, with females laying eggs on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: The adults have a lifespan of approximately 1 week in the wild.
  • Host Plants: They are fond of legumes especially vetches and lupines.

Adding charm to the New Mexico landscape, this little blue creature embodies nature’s delicate allure.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is a sight to behold in New Mexico’s skylines. Known for its large size and striking color pattern, it’s an absolute marvel of the butterfly realm.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive in different habitats, from forests to suburban areas.
  • Appearance: They have yellow and black wings. The upper side is primarily black, with a yellow band. The underside is yellow with black spots.
  • Size: They’re one of the largest butterflies, with a wingspan of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, round yellow eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about a month, depending on weather conditions.
  • Host Plants: They lay their eggs on citrus trees like oranges and lemons, making them common in groves. They also use garden rue as a host plant.

Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)

The Green Comma is a unique butterfly species found in New Mexico, notable for its interesting features and behaviors.

Green Comma butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are found in forested areas and mountainous regions, usually inhabiting altitudes between 4,900 and 6,500 feet.
  • Appearance: They are identified by their bright orange color with distinctive black spots. Moreover, they have jagged wing edges that resemble dried leaves.
  • Size: These butterflies vary between 1.5 to 2 inches (38 to 51 mm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As adults, the Green Comma mainly feeds on tree sap, and occasionally on rotting fruit.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the host plants, which hatch after about a week.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is approximately one year, one of the longest among butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Willow, poplar, and nettles are the most common host plants of this species.

Understanding this butterfly offers insight into the diverse butterfly species that call New Mexico home.

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

The Anise Swallowtail is a vibrant butterfly species you’ll likely spot in New Mexico. Their residence on green landscapes enhances nature’s beauty.

anise swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: They thrive in open fields and meadows.
  • Appearance: Yellow with black stripes, this butterfly has a unique design with blue and orange spots near its tail.
  • Size: They are relatively big, with a wingspan ranging from 1.9 to 2.8 inches (4.8 to 7.1 cm).
  • Diet: Their diet primarily consists of flower nectar. As caterpillars, they munch on leaves.
  • Reproduction: They lay spherical, pale-green eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: This species usually lives for about a month in the summer.
  • Host Plants: Popular choices of host plants include parsley, dill, fennel, and the wild carrots found in the Southwest.

Remember to admire these beauties from afar to allow them to continue their essential pollination role.

Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus)

The Common Sootywing, scientific name Pholisora catullus, has fascinating attributes.

common sootywing (Pholisora catullus) on smooth oxeye at Clear Creek fen IA 653A1604

  • Habitat: You’ll primarily find them in North America, thriving in open and disturbed areas such as roadsides, fields, and wastelands.
  • Appearance: This butterfly species flaunts dark brown or black wings with white spots creating a unique visual appeal.
  • Size: A small butterfly, with a wingspan measuring around 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adults feed on nectar from small white and yellow flowers while the caterpillars enjoy a plant-based diet.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the host plant leaves, usually lamb’s quarters or redroot pigweed.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle from egg to adult spans a few weeks, with adults living for up to two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their caterpillars are seen primarily on species of the Amaranth family, like the Chenopodium album or redroot pigweed.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is arguably one of the most widespread and recognizable butterfly species.

painted lady butterfly

Here are its main characteristics:

  • Habitat: This uniquely adaptable species can be found across five continents, including North America and hence, New Mexico. It prefers open areas with abundant flowers.
  • Appearance: It’s easily distinguished by the intricate orange, black, and white patterns on its wings.
  • Size: Adult Painted Ladies usually measure between 2 to 2.9 inches (5.1 to 7.3 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from various types of flowers while the caterpillars prefer thistles and other members of the sunflower family.
  • Reproduction: After migrating, females lay the eggs on the host plants. Each egg gives birth to a caterpillar, which later metamorphoses.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan ranges from two to four weeks but is affected by factors such as temperature and available food.
  • Host Plants: The Painted Lady uses a wide variety of host plants like hollyhock and sunflower for laying its eggs.

Mexican Silverspot (Dione moneta)

The Mexican Silverspot is a unique species that can be found in New Mexico.

Mexican Silverspot (Dione moneta)

Here’s everything you need to know about this butterfly:

  • Habitat: Mexican Silverspots prefer warm, tropical environments and are mainly found in the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
  • Appearance: This species is distinctive with its silver spots on a dark brown to black backdrop. The lower wings show a vibrant orange when in flight.
  • Size: The average wingspan of the Mexican Silverspot is between 2.5 to 3 inches (64-76mm).
  • Diet: As adults, they mainly consume nectar from plants and flowers. Caterpillars consume various species of passion vines.
  • Reproduction: Each female lays hundreds of eggs, usually on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live around 2-3 weeks in their adult stage.
  • Host Plants: The most common host plant for this species is the passion vine. They prefer the yellow or blue passionflower varieties.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is an iconic butterfly in New Mexico. Also known as the Vanessa atalanta, this butterfly brims with charisma.

red admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Found vastly in moist fields, woods, meadows, parks, and yards, they have a liking for the nettle family.
  • Appearance: Showcasing a lovely contrast, you’ll notice black wings rimmed in orange-red stripes, punctuated with white spots.
  • Size: Mature adults span approximately 1.75 to 2.75 inches (4.5 to 7 cm), offering a striking view as they flutter.
  • Diet: Their feeding habits primarily include nectar from flowers like milkweeds and aster, red or purple fruits, and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly atop nettle plants, which later hatch into vibrant green caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: An adult’s lifespan is about 2 weeks—brief, yet significant for pollination.
  • Host Plants: Chiefly, nettles are their host plants; however, they also favor hop and pellitory.

The hardiness of the Red Admiral commends adoration and respect from all who catch its sight.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

The Aphrodite Fritillary is an air-glider species native to New Mexico. Its splendid appearance captivates butterfly enthusiasts and casual onlookers alike.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly

Let’s dive into the specifics:

  • Habitat: They favor open, moist areas, frequently seen in alpine meadows and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: These butterflies have orange-brown wings with black spots. The underwings are lighter, featuring bold silver spots.
  • Size: The species can reach a wingspan of 2.5 to 3 inches, approximately 63mm to 75mm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed mainly on flower nectar, with a fondness for thistles and milkweeds.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on or near host plants. Unlike many butterfly species, Aphrodite Fritillaries overwinter as larvae.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is around one year.
  • Host Plants: Violet species serve as their primary host plants, providing essential nourishment for the larvae.

There you have it, the Aphrodite Fritillary, a true spectacle of nature’s art in New Mexico.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly is an impressive species commonly found in New Mexico. Let’s dive into some essential details that make this species stand out.

Viceroy butterfly

  • Habitat: Their natural habitat ranges from marshes to wooded areas, often around bodies of water.
  • Appearance: Viceroys are orange and black with white spots on the wings’ black margins. They mimic the Monarch’s color to ward off predators.
  • Size: Adult Viceroys have a wingspan of 2.5-3.1 inches (6.3-7.9 cm), making them moderately sizable.
  • Diet: Adults sip on nectar from flowers, while caterpillars feed mainly on willow and poplar leaves.
  • Reproduction: Viceroy butterflies lay their eggs singularly on the upper side of the host plant’s leaves, and the caterpillar will eat the leaf once it hatches.
  • Lifespan: Their typical lifespan is about 14 days.
  • Host Plants: Various species of willow and poplar trees serve as their primary hosts, with occasional use of apple trees.

Yucca Giant-Skipper (Megathymus yuccae)

The Yucca Giant-Skipper is an interesting butterfly found in New Mexico.

Yucca Giant-skipper - Hodges#4145 (Megathymus yuccae) 20190416_4560.jpg

So, let’s look deeper into what it offers:

  • Habitat: Mainly thrives in desert regions and adapts well to arid conditions.
  • Appearance: Boasts of brown and white wings with black borders. Has a delicate hairstreak on the hindwing. The body is robust and hairy.
  • Size: Adult wingspans usually range from 1.5 to 3 inches (3.8 – 7.6 cm), making it one of the larger skipper species.
  • Diet: The larvae feed on tender Yucca tissues while adult butterflies feed on Yucca nectar.
  • Reproduction: The larvae pupate in large, tough cocoon shells affixed to Yucca leaves. Adults emerge between April and May.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live 1 – 2 weeks, spending their short lifespan feeding and reproducing.
  • Host Plants: Generally, prefers Yucca species, particularly Soapweed and Spanish Dagger, upon which their larvae live and feed.

Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis)

The Northwestern Fritillary is an attractive species, exclusive to the wild terrains present in New Mexico.

Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis)

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive in open spaces, principally in woodlands, prairies, and stream corridors.
  • Appearance: They have a rich orange color with black marks on their wings, exuding an exquisite look.
  • Size: They moderately-sized, usually around 2 to 2.5 inches (5-6.35 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult Northwestern Fritillaries primarily feed on flower nectar while caterpillars prefer violet leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of food plants. Caterpillars hatch and feed on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: On average, adults live for around two to three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants are violets.

The Northwestern Fritillary lifts the aesthetic appeal of the places it visits, adding a touch of bright color and liveliness into the mix.

With its simple diet and reproduction process, it’s proving to be a major attraction in the scenery of New Mexico.

Milbert’s Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)

The Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterfly, scientifically known as Aglais Milberti, is a captivating little creature that you can find around the areas of New Mexico.

milbert's tortoiseshell butterfly

Here are some enlightening details about this species:

  • Habitat: Favors damp areas, often seen near streams in meadows and road edges.
  • Appearance: This butterfly has orange wings with black patterning towards the edges, and bluish spots along the hind wing borders.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 1.6-2.2 inches (4-5.5 cm), it’s considered a medium-sized species.
  • Diet: Prefers nectar from flowers like thistles and asters. As caterpillars, they consume the leaves of nettle plants.
  • Reproduction: Female lays eggs singly on the underside of host plant leaves. The caterpillars are solitary.
  • Lifespan: Adults generally live for around 2 weeks, emulating the typical lifespan of most butterflies.
  • Host Plants: The preferred host plants for larvae are the stinging nettles.

This charming butterfly is just one of the many species calling New Mexico home. Get out there and admire these little wonders of nature!

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

The Pearl Crescent is a common yet delightful sight often spotted fluttering around meadows, road edges, or disturbed sites across New Mexico.

Pearl Crescent butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies love sunlit spaces and can be commonly found in meadows, open woods, and fields.
  • Appearance: They have an unmistakable orange color with black markings on the upperside of their wings, while the underside is of a light-colored hue with striking dark spots.
  • Size: The wingspan generally ranges between 1 to 1.5 inches (2.54 – 3.81 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Pearl Crescents rely on the nectar of many plant species, while the caterpillars feed on aster leaves.
  • Reproduction: Female lay their eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Despite their delicate appearance, the Pearl Crescent thrives under diverse conditions, ensuring a lifespan of about 15 to 20 days in the wild.
  • Host Plants: A wide range of aster species serve as host plants for the caterpillars, hence the common presence of these butterflies around such plants.

Desert Orangetip (Anthocharis cethura)

The Desert Orangetip is one of the many butterfly species you’ll encounter while in New Mexico. These butterflies are associated with desert environments, as their name suggests, but you would be amazed at their adaptability.

Desert Orangetip (Anthocharis cethura morrisoni)

  • Habitat: Primarily deserts with wild mustard-growth
  • Appearance: Males are white with a bright orange fringed tip on the wings. Females, on the other hand, have the orange color replaced by a dull gray.
  • Size: Small butterflies, their wingspan ranges from 1.3 to 1.9 inches (3.3 to 4.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adults feed on flower nectar, while the larva subsist on the flowers, buds, and developing seed pods of their host plants.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay their eggs on the plants where they feed as adults, usually on the tips of the freshly blooming wild mustard plants.
  • Lifespan: Lives for couple of weeks as adults in the spring season.
  • Host Plants: Favored host plants are generally wild mustard and rock cress plants.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

The Cloudless Sulphur is a remarkable species that you’ll likely encounter in New Mexico. This butterfly species points out the diverse insect life found out there in the wild.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: They are typically found in open areas, gardens, and along roadsides.
  • Appearance: With its bright yellow wings, Cloudless Sulphur stands out against green foliage.
  • Size: These butterflies have a wingspan between 2.3 to 3.1 inches or 6 to 8 centimeters.
  • Diet: The adults feed on the nectar from deep-throated flowers including cordia, bougainvillea, cardinal flower, hibiscus, lantana, and wild morning glory.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants, which hatch after a few days into larvae.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is a few weeks, but some have been known to live up to a year.
  • Host Plants: The most common host plant of this species is sleepy morning (Senna obtusifolia), while in New Mexico, they particularly prefer Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata).

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a butterfly species well-known in New Mexico.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Found primarily in the Southern United States, frequently near hackberry trees, from which it derives its name.
  • Appearance: The wings are a brownish color, with an outer layer of white and tawny spots giving it a jagged look.
  • Size: On average, the wingspan is between 1.6 to 2.5 inches (4.1 to 6.4 cm), making it medium-sized.
  • Diet: They have a diverse diet including hackberry tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, and sometimes nectar from small, white flowers.
  • Reproduction: They lay their eggs on hackberry leaves, the young caterpillars hatching and feeding on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: They have a short life span, living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The hackberry tree (Celtis species) is both their host and primary food plant.

Tailed Copper (Lycaena arota)

The Tailed Copper is a unique butterfly species found across New Mexico.

Tailed Copper ♂ (Lycaena arota)

  • Habitat: They widely populate the woodland and mountainous areas.
  • Appearance: A sight to behold with splendid copper-colored upper wings and beautifully patterned underparts.
  • Size: Adults grow to about 1.3-2.0 inches (3.3-5.1 cm) in wingspan, more or less the size of a USA quarter.
  • Diet: They’re lovers of the nectar; keep your eyes peeled on flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaf-tops of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is a mystery, but most butterflies live for around 2 weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: They prefer domestic, black, and Douglas-fir – curiously enough, evergreen tree species!

So, don’t be surprised if you spot one of these beauties fluttering around your next mountain hike or woodland adventure in New Mexico.

Their vibrant coloration renders them easily noticeable in their natural habitats.


Exploring the rich diversity that New Mexico’s butterfly species have to offer is truly fascinating. Each of these 30 species contributes distinct beauty and purpose to the ecosystem.

Do you have a favorite, or perhaps you’ve had a special encounter with one of these species? Please leave a comment sharing your experience.

Butterflies   Updated: August 11, 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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