30 Butterfly Species in North Carolina
Welcome to the world of butterflies in North Carolina, where 30 unique species offer a flutter of colors and patterns.
This expository-style article aims to highlight various species, sharing characteristics and habitat details.
So, get prepared to embark on an incredible journey through the rich biodiversity of North Carolina’s butterfly populace.
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
Allow me to introduce you to the charming Eastern Tailed-Blue. Wide-ranging and widespread, this butterfly turns heads with its distinct appearance and lifestyle.
- Habitat: They are found in open areas, fields, and even your gardens.
- Appearance: Boasting a striking blue hue on the upper side of its wings, it’s accented with a hint of tail-like extensions.
- Size: Believe it or not, these little ones only span up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in width.
- Diet: Fond of the sweet nectar, they enjoy flowers like the alfalfa and clover.
- Reproduction: In a year, expect three generations, with their eggs laid singly on host plant leaves.
- Lifespan: Albeit brief, they live for less than a week as a butterfly.
- Host Plants: Clover, alfalfa and other legumes serve as their host plants.
Indeed, the Eastern Tailed-Blue captivates with its delicate charm.
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)
The Giant Swallowtail is impressive and its distinctive traits are noteworthy.
- Habitat: They enjoy citrus groves, gardens, and fields.
- Appearance: Their striking yellow and black pattern is unique.
- Size: Females size around 5.5 inches (14cm) and males, slightly smaller.
- Diet: They feed on nectar from various flowers.
- Reproduction: The females lay single, sphere-shaped eggs on top of host plants.
- Lifespan: Their lifespan is around two months in summer, while overwintering individuals can live up to ten months.
- Host Plants: They prefer species of rue, citrus, and hop tree.
Quite a spectacle, this butterfly is always a pleasure to encounter. Be sure to have your camera ready while visiting its habitat.
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Monarch butterflies are perhaps one of the most well-known butterfly species in North Carolina.
- Habitat: As migrants, they thrive in a wide variety of habitats including fields, meadows, and urban areas.
- Appearance: Sporting contrasting bright orange wings with black veins and margins, Monarchs are truly a sight to behold.
- Size: With a wingspan of around 3.5-4 inches (roughly 8.9-10.2 cm), they are easily distinguishable from other butterfly species.
- Diet: Monarch caterpillars primarily feed on milkweed. Adult Monarchs, on the other hand, feed on the nectar from a variety of flowers.
- Reproduction: During migration, females lay eggs on the undersides of milkweed leaves.
- Lifespan: The typical lifespan ranges from 2 to 6 weeks, although the final generation of the year may live up to 8 months to complete the migration cycle.
- Host Plants: Milkweeds are the exclusive host plants for Monarch caterpillars, serving as both their home and food source.
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)
The Sachem is a butterfly species native to North Carolina. This wonderful creature is prominently found in wide-open areas like fields, gardens, or roadsides.
- Habitat: Typically favor open spaces like fields and roadsides.
- Appearance: Adult sachems have dark brownish coloration with light spots and dashes, giving them an interesting textured look.
- Size: This butterfly has a wingspan of around 1.2 – 1.5 inches (3-4 cm), making it a relatively small-sized variety.
- Diet: As larva, they feed on grasses such as Bermuda grass or crabgrass. Adults prefer sucking nectar from various flowers.
- Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaves of their chosen host plants.
- Lifespan: The full life cycle from egg to adult lasts about a month.
- Host Plants: Sachems predominantly lay their eggs on grasses like Bermuda grass and crabgrass.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one of the most common and recognizable butterfly species in North Carolina.
- Habitat: It thrives in various environments, from woodlands to suburban areas.
- Appearance: This butterfly sports a striking color contrast – black stripes on a yellow background mimic a tiger’s coat.
- Size: Generally, it measures between 3 to 5.5 inches (7.6 to 14 cm) in wingspan.
- Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from a range of flowers, while caterpillars munch on leaves of host plants.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants. The caterpillars emerge after about a week.
- Lifespan: The adult swallowtail typically lives for about a month in summer. In contrast, those that emerge in fall can live up to 7 months, overwintering as adults.
- Host Plants: Caterpillars prefer Wild Cherry, Tulip Tree and Sweet Bay.
This impressive butterfly graces North Carolina’s landscapes, leaving passersby in awe of nature’s magnificence.
Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)
Let’s delve into the world of Eurytides marcellus, commonly known as the Zebra Swallowtail.
- Habitat: This species thrives in moist lowland areas. It prefers open woodlands and fields where its favorite food source, the pawpaw, is found.
- Appearance: Sporting triangular wings, it flaunts a distinctive black and white striated pattern, evocative of a zebra’s coat. It has two elongated tails on each hind wing.
- Size: Zebra swallowtails maintain a medium size, generally with a wingspan of 2.75-4 inches (7-10 cm).
- Diet: Adult butterflies are drawn to nectar from various flowers, wheras the caterpillars primarily munch on pawpaw leaves.
- Reproduction: Females commandingly deposit eggs on the undersides of pawpaw leaves, ensuring a food source for the caterpillars upon hatch.
- Lifespan: From egg to adult, the Zebra Swallowtail may live up to 6 weeks.
- Host Plants: The singular host plant of the Zebra Swallowtail is the pawpaw (Asimina triloba). Peculiar, isn’t it?
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
The Fiery Skipper, scientifically known as Hylephila phyleus, is one catchy butterfly.
- Habitat: These inhabits gardens and wastelands where they enjoy basking in sunlight. You’ll find them largely in North America, and certainly in North Carolina.
- Appearance: Males are rich gold, while females are a duller brown. Both have conspicuous blackish markings.
- Size: Generally, their wingspan ranges from 1 to 1.5 inches (25 to 38 millimeters).
- Diet: The Fiery Skippers feed primarily on nectar from flowers.
- Reproduction: Their eggs are round and white, laid singly on leaves of host plants.
- Lifespan: Adults live for around 7 to 10 days, fulfilling their mission of nurturing the next generation.
- Host Plants: Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass are their favourites. It’s from these host plants that their caterpillar life begins.
This butterfly is named for its quick, skipping flight and bright colors – a small but fiery wonder in the butterfly realm!
Queen (Danaus gilippus)
The Queen butterfly, scientifically known as Danaus gilippus, is another famous inhabitant of North Carolina.
- Habitat: Found in warm, open areas. Most commonly seen in gardens, meadows, and along the roadsides.
- Appearance: Exhibits a sleek, dark brown color with white spots, similar to the Monarch butterfly.
- Size: Typically measures between 2.75-3.5 inches (7-9 cm), with the females slightly larger than males.
- Diet: Primarily feeds on nectar from various flowers.
- Reproduction: Female lays eggs on milkweed, on which the caterpillar feeds and develops.
- Lifespan: Approximately 2-6 weeks for adults, but if they’re the generation to migrate, they can live up to 8 months.
- Host Plants: Milkweed is the host plant of choice for this butterfly species.
With the Queen Butterfly, it’s clear to see North Carolina is home to an abundance of diverse and beautiful butterfly species.
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)
The Great Spangled Fritillary is awe-inspiring. Its large wings offer a visual feast of orange and brown designs.
Here’s more about them:
- Habitat: These residents adore open woodlands, fields, and meadows. Look out for them in these sites across North Carolina.
- Appearance: Sporting wings of vibrant orange with black or brown spots, they also have broad dark borders.
- Size: Their wingspan goes up to 2.5-4 inches (6.35-10.16 cm); they are indeed a sight to admire.
- Diet: In their caterpillar stage, they much on violets. As adults, nectar from various flowers serves them best.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs only on or near violets- the host plant for their caterpillars.
- Lifespan: Though adults live for about a month, the whole life cycle spans a year.
- Host Plants: Violets are their choice for breeding; caterpillars feed exclusively on these.
Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)
The Red-spotted Purple is a striking butterfly species you’re likely to find in North Carolina. Let’s delve into details about this captivating creature.
- Habitat: These butterflies often prefer wetland forests and forest edges. They’re also attracted to gardens with host plants.
- Appearance: The Red-spotted Purple butterfly has dark blue wings with black edges. It gets its name from the row of prominent red spots along each wing.
- Size: This is a medium to large-sized species. It generally spans between 3 to 3.5 inches (7.6 cm to 8.9 cm).
- Diet: Adult butterflies primarily feed on rotting fruit, minerals from wet soil, and occasionally, nectar.
- Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on host plants. The larvae then feed exclusively on these plants.
- Lifespan: The typical lifespan of Red-spotted Purples is around two weeks in the adult stage.
- Host Plants: The preferred host plants are wild cherries, cottonwood, willows, and poplar.
It’s a real delight to see these in the wild or fluttering around in your backyard.
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Orange Sulphurs, also referred to as Alfalfa butterflies, can be spotted across North Carolina.
- Habitat: They’re often visible in open habitats, such as meadows and roadsides.
- Appearance: They’re notable for their bright orange upperside with black borders, and the underside range from yellow to orange.
- Size: The wingspan of adults typically ranges between 1.3 to 2.2 inches (3.2-5.6 cm).
- Diet: These butterflies love to sip nectar from various flowers including dandelions, milkweeds, and asters.
- Reproduction: In a single year, they can have multiple generations, and females lay green, spindle-shaped eggs on host plants.
- Lifespan: On average, Orange Sulphur lives around one month.
- Host Plants: Their larvae feed on alfalfa, clover, and other legumes, giving them their alternate name.
Note the Orange Sulphur’s ability to blend into its environment to avoid predators, showcasing the wonders of nature’s camouflage techniques.
Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)
The Hackberry Emperor is a distinct butterfly that leans towards the Hackberry trees which are its primary food source and breeding ground.
- Habitat: You’ll find this species thriving in riparian woods or areas dotted with Hackberry trees.
- Appearance: They have an appealing mix of warm brown and orange colors with white spots arranged neatly in a row.
- Size: A Hackberry Emperor measures about 1.75 to 3 inches (4.4 to 7.6 cm) in wingspan.
- Diet: The adults feed on sap, rotting fruit, dung, and carrion, and are only occasional visitors to flowers.
- Reproduction: The female lays eggs only on the leaves of its host plants.
- Lifespan: Average lifespan is just a few weeks, though some adults may live up to several months.
- Host Plants: As its name suggests, the Hackberry Emperor’s larval host plants are Hackberry trees (Celtis sp.).
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)
Meet the Viceroy butterfly, which can be easily mistaken for a Monarch due to its similar pattern and color. However, look closer, and you’ll notice its distinctive horizontal black line crossing the hindwings.
- Habitat: You can spot Viceroys throughout North Carolina, in wet areas near streams and ponds.
- Appearance: Its orange and black pattern is striking. A black line across the hindwings uniquely identifies them.
- Size: This butterfly is small to medium-sized, with a wingspan between 2.5 to 3 inches, or 6.35 to 7.6 cm.
- Diet: Adult Viceroys feed on nectar from flowering plants.
- Reproduction: Females lay a single egg on the tips of host plant leaves.
- Lifespan: Viceroys can live up to two weeks as adults.
- Host Plants: The preferred host plants for larvae are trees in the willow family, including poplars and cottonwoods.
So, next time you’re wandering the countryside of North Carolina, look into every orange flutter for the Viceroy’s unique line.
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
Question Mark butterflies are intriguing creatures. Looking closer at their habits and traits reveals why.
- Habitat: Favored living areas are forest edges, city parks, and suburban yards.
- Appearance: They flaunt orange wings with black spots. The distinct ‘question mark’ shape on their underside wings earned them their name.
- Size: Adults range from 2-3 inches, or 5-7.6 cm.
- Diet: They feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, and sometimes flowers.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on leaves of the host plant.
- Lifespan: Adult butterflies can live up to two weeks in summer or up to nine months if they were born in fall.
- Host Plants: Preferred plants include nettles, elms, and hackberries.
These characteristics make the Question Mark a truly captivating species to behold. So, keep an eye out for these unique, charming creatures during your next adventure in North Carolina.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
The Painted Lady butterfly, scientifically known as Vanessa cardui, is one of the prominent butterfly species in North Carolina.
This species can be found in urban, suburban, and disturbed habitats, and it’s widespread across the state.
- Habitat: These butterflies adapt well to various environments. They can be found in areas like gardens, meadows, and road edges.
- Appearance: They have striking orange-brown wings with black markings and white spots, creating a painted effect.
- Size: Adults have a wingspan of around 2.0 – 2.9 inches or 5 – 7.5 centimeters.
- Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on host plants. Adult butterflies drink nectar from various flowers using their coiled mouthpart.
- Reproduction: Females lay tiny green eggs on the leaves of host plants.
- Lifespan: Their life cycle spans from 2 weeks to a month.
- Host Plants: They enjoy a range of host plants, including Thistle, Hollyhock, and Mallow.
The Painted Lady is a fascinating species with unique characteristics.
Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)
Spicebush Swallowtail is a visually appealing butterfly species that resides predominantly in North Carolina.
- Habitat: Prefers open woods, fields, and streams. They’re fond of spicebush, as the name suggests.
- Appearance: Adult males are a brilliant black with light blue ‘tails’, while females can vary between black and greenish blue.
- Size: Wingspan usually ranges between 3-4 inches (7.5-10cm).
- Diet: Adult butterflies drink nectar from a variety of wildflowers. Caterpillars, on the other hand, mainly consume leaves of spicebush and sassafras trees.
- Reproduction: Females lay tiny greenish-white eggs, usually on the undersides of leaves. The eggs then hatch into tiny caterpillars.
- Lifespan: Adults generally live about a month during summer. However, the last generation in late summer or fall will overwinter and live up to 10 months.
- Host Plants: They favor Spicebush, Sassafras, Redbay, and some other plants in the laurel family for their eggs and caterpillars.
Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)
The Urbanus proteus, more commonly known as the Long-tailed Skipper, is visually striking and unique.
- Habitat: This butterfly mostly occupies open woodland and subtropical hammocks.
- Appearance: They possess a bright lime green body and wings that sparkle blue when hit by natural light. This combined with long tails on their hind wings adds to their distinctive look.
- Size: They are of medium size, spanning between 1.8 to 2.5 inches (4.5 to 6.3 cm).
- Diet: The adult species primarily feeds on flower nectar.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants where caterpillars feed and develop.
- Lifespan: The Long-tailed Skipper typically lives around a month or so.
- Host Plants: A broad array of plants including beans, wisteria, and tick trefoils serve as hosts for this skipper.
Always in pursuit of sweet nectar, these butterflies are a delight to spot in gardens, especially when sunlight glitters off their mesmerising wings.
Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)
Meet the Eastern Comma, one of the enchanting butterflies you can encounter in North Carolina.
- Habitat: Open woodlands and forest edges best describe their surroundings. They also fancy riverside groves.
- Appearance: They are orange and brown with dark spots on the upper side. Get a glimpse of its silver mark, shaped like a comma on the underside, from which its name originates.
- Size: These beings exude majesty within a 4.5 to 6.4 centimeter or 1.8 to 2.5 inches wingspan.
- Diet: Sap flows, rotting fruits, or nectar from small, white flowers often constitute their diet.
- Reproduction: Females lay greenish-white eggs singly on the host plant.
- Lifespan: Eastern Commas can live for about a year.
- Host Plants: Hops (Humulus), nettles (Urtica), and elms (Ulmus) are among the favorites of caterpillars from this species.
Aren’t they a fascinating sight? Next time you’re in their habitat, keep an eye out for this unique butterfly species.
Common Buckeye (Junonia Coenia)
When it comes to North Carolina’s butterfly diversity, the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), indeed, grabs attention with its distinctive look.
- Habitat: These alluring species are hugely adaptive and inhabit diverse regions from open areas, to fields and coastal dunes.
- Appearance: A sight to behold indeed, with its brown wings featuring eye-catching eye-spots rimmed in black, accentuated by vibrant orange and cream hues.
- Size: Common Buckeyes span about 2-2.5 inches (5-6.3cm), large enough to make their artistry noticeable.
- Diet: Their nourishment primarily comes from the nectar of plants like asters, chicory, and knapweed.
- Reproduction: The females lay singular eggs mainly on the buds of host plants.
- Lifespan: Although their lifespan varies, they typically live about a few weeks to a month.
- Host Plants: They favor plants from the Snapdragon family and also some specific species like false foxglove and plantain.
Overall, it’s the combination of their intriguing look and adaptability that make the Common Buckeye an iconic butterfly in North Carolina.
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Living true to its name, the Cloudless Sulphur butterfly graces North Carolina with its stunning, clear, yellow wings.
Its notable characteristics and lifestyle aspects include:
- Habitat: Preferring warmer climates, they are often found in meadows, gardens, and road edges.
- Appearance: Female butterflies have white spots on their dark borders, while males exhibit clearer yellowish-green wings.
- Size: A medium to large-sized species, size varies between 2.25 to 3.125 inches (5.7 cm to 7.9 cm) in wingspan.
- Diet: Adult butterflies fancy nectar from many kinds of flowers, while caterpillars feed on Cassia species in the pea family.
- Reproduction: Female butterflies lay single, round, pale-green eggs on host plant leaves.
- Lifespan: They have a life cycle of around 6 to 8 weeks from egg to adult.
- Host Plants: They prefer Senna and Partridge Pea plants, especially for laying eggs and for their caterpillars’ nutrition.
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
- Habitat: The American Lady is free-spirited and can adapt to various habitats. They prefer open fields and sunny, dry areas with flowers.
- Appearance: These butterfly species showcase an array of colors. Orange-brown wings decorated with black and white spots make them seem like flying artwork.
- Size: They are medium in size, with a wingspan ranging between 1.75 to 2.6 inches (4.5 to 6.7 cm).
- Diet: Their diet mainly consists of nectar from flowers, but they also occasionally enjoy sap from trees.
- Reproduction: The female lays greenish, spindle-shaped eggs on the host plant leaves.
- Lifespan: Their lifespan is typically composed of 2 weeks as a caterpillar, 2 weeks as a pupa, and 2 weeks as a butterfly.
- Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on plants like the pearly everlasting and the cudweed.
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)
The Gulf Fritillary is a vibrantly colored butterfly species you’ll find in North Carolina. Let’s delve into the characteristics of this stunning species.
- Habitat: These butterflies have a tropical and subtropical distribution, favoring open, sunny areas.
- Appearance: They show off a breathtaking bright orange color with silver underwings.
- Size: They are medium-sized, around 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.4 to 8.9 cm) in wingspan.
- Diet: Adults have an inclination for nectar from flowers like lantana and passion vines.
- Reproduction: Females lay tiny eggs, which turn into caterpillars with a spiky appearance.
- Lifespan: They live for around 2 to 3 weeks as adults.
- Host Plants: Passion vines are the primary host plants for Gulf Fritillary larvae.
The Gulf Fritillary is an exquisite sight to behold, contributing to the biodiversity of North Carolina.
Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)
The Silver-spotted Skipper is a captivating butterfly species native to North Carolina. With distinctive characteristics, this species stands out amongst the rich variety of butterfly fauna.
- Habitat: Flourishing predominantly in disturbed areas, fields, and near roadsides, it also appreciates gardens with host plants.
- Appearance: A conspicuous silver spot on its hindwing underside is its main identifying feature. The upper surface of the wings is brown-black, marked with pale spots.
- Size: The butterfly is quite large with a wingspan ranging from 1.8 to 2.5 inches (4.5 to 6.4 cm).
- Diet: Surprisingly versatile, they feed on multiple nectar sources with favorites being milkweed, red clover, and purple vetch.
- Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the host plants where they develop.
- Lifespan: Adult butterflies tend to live for around a month in summer.
- Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on wide range of plants like black locust, honey locust, and wild senna.
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)
The Black Swallowtail, scientifically known as Papilio polyxenes, is a striking butterfly species native to North Carolina. One glance and it’s impossible not to be captivated by its beauty.
- Habitat: Black Swallowtails are versatile butterflies, found in a variety of settings, including parks, urban areas, meadows, and gardens.
- Appearance: They have black wings with a series of yellow spots. The females also have a notable blue highlight on their hind wings.
- Size: On average, their wingspan is typically between 3 and 4 inches (or 7.6 to 10.2 cm).
- Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from various plants whereas caterpillars enjoy the foliage of host plants.
- Reproduction: Females lay their spherical, yellow eggs on host plants.
- Lifespan: Adults live nearly two weeks, although the entire life cycle can take up to two months.
- Host Plants: Preferred host plants include parsley, dill, and Queen Anne’s lace.
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
One wonderful visitor to North Carolina is the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia). This butterfly species presents a nomadic tendency, moving from one place to another.
- Habitat: It adores meadows, pastures, and open parks.
- Appearance: It sports an appealing orange-brown color, with a typical mosaic pattern on its underside.
- Size: Adults measure about 1.75-2.5 inches (~4.4-6.4 cm) in wingspan. Quite a sight!
- Diet: Flowers are their food. Particularly, thistles, milkweed, and coneflowers.
- Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants, that hatch into caterpillars.
- Lifespan: Their lifespan varies based on environmental factors, but you can enjoy them from April till frost.
- Host Plants: Violets and passionflowers are often chosen for egg-laying.
With such striking details, it’s clear that the Variegated Fritillary is a unique part of the butterfly population in North Carolina. Don’t miss it!
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
The Red Admiral is indeed a captivating sight. It’s a vibrantly-colored butterfly species found in North Carolina and surely is a head-turner.
- Habitat: You’ll mostly spot them in moist areas like marshes, woods, and yards.
- Appearance: The butterfly sports a striking combination of black wings with red bands and white spots.
- Size: Not too big, not too small; their wingspan ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches (5 to 9 centimeters).
- Diet: The Red Admiral feeds on nectar from various plants, as well as overripe fruit.
- Reproduction: Interestingly, each female can lay hundreds of eggs on nettle plants, their chosen host plant.
- Lifespan: It has a relatively short lifespan, only about 6 months.
- Host Plants: They tend to stick to stinging nettles.
Simply put, the Red Admiral’s striking look and surprising details make it one of the magnificent species in North Carolina.
Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna)
The Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna) is a fascinating specimen.
Often, you’ll find them in:
- Habitat: Sandhills, pine barren and dry, open woodland regions.
- Appearance: Predominantly dark brown with a dusting of white scales on the wings.
- Size: Wingspan ranges from 1.25 to 1.5 inches (3.18 to 3.81 centimeters).
- Diet: Adult Skippers feed on flower nectar, while larvae feast on the leaves of its host plant.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the host plant leaves. The emergent caterpillars then feed off these leaves.
- Lifespan: Life expectancy is from egg to adult is around one year.
- Host Plants: Big bluestem and little bluestem grasses serve as the primary hosts.
With its dark and white speckled ensemble, the Dusted Skipper is indeed a sight to behold.
Quite uncommon in some areas, a glimpse of this butterfly is considered a treat for North Carolina’s naturalists.
Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris)
Allow me to introduce you to the Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris), a fascinating species to watch out for in North Carolina.
- Habitat: These little marvels are in wetland and grassland areas.
- Appearance: Their wings exhibit a delicate, dusky brown color, contributing to a subdued elegance.
- Size: Their wingspan ranges from 1.25 to 1.5 inches (3.18 to 3.81 cm), making them relatively small in size.
- Diet: Prefer nectar from flowering plants. For an energy boost, they also savor tree sap.
- Reproduction: Like many, females lay eggs on host plants which caterpillars feed on post-hatching.
- Lifespan: Often live through summer, but exact duration is hard to determine in the wild.
- Host Plants: In North Carolina, sedges are the preferred host plants, giving caterpillars ample nourishment.
A small, quiet butterfly, the Dun Skipper is an understated delight. Their common presence belies their special charm.
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)
The Cabbage White butterfly is a widespread species in North Carolina.
- Habitat: It frequents open, sunny areas including gardens and fields.
- Appearance: Its wings are white with small black spots on the forewings. The underside of the hindwing is pale greenish-yellow.
- Size: The wingspan ranges from 1.3 to 2 inches (3.3 to 5 cm).
- Diet: The adults feed on flower nectar while caterpillars devour cabbage and related plants.
- Reproduction: Females lay single, pale yellow eggs on the undersides of host leaves.
- Lifespan: Adults live for around two weeks.
- Host Plants: Mostly from the Brassica family, including cabbage, broccoli, and kale.
Despite their potential as pests, Cabbage Whites play a vital role in the ecosystem. Their caterpillars are a food source for many bird species.
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)
The Mourning Cloak is a distinct butterfly species found in North Carolina, distinguished by its unique appearance.
- Habitat: These insects usually prefer sunlit forests, city parks, and neighborhoods. They have quite an adaptable nature.
- Appearance: They sport dark brown wings with a bold yellow border and a series of electric-blue spots along the edge.
- Size: They are fairly large, with a wingspan of 2-4 inches (5-10 cm).
- Diet: Adult butterflies feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, and even dung rather than nectar.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs in clusters on suitable host plants, encircling the stem.
- Lifespan: Mourning Cloak butterflies have a remarkable lifespan of 11-12 months, one of the longest among butterfly species.
- Host Plants: Preferred plants include willows, elms, and poplar trees – all easily found within their chosen habitats.
This specimen is easily one of the most exciting butterflies in North Carolina, standing out among its peers.
On your next exploration trip in North Carolina, keep your eyes open to spot these beautiful creatures fluttering about.
With their colorful patterns, each butterfly carries an air of beauty and mystery.
Feel free to comment below about which butterfly you’ve encountered or would love to see.