30 Butterfly Species in North Dakota

Dive into the colorful world of North Dakota’s butterfly species with this detailed exploration.

Discover the unique characteristics, habits and habitats of 30 distinct species that call this region home.

Get ready to embark on an enlightening journey through nature’s mini-masterpieces right here in North Dakota.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is a delightful light touch to the North Dakota biodiversity. Its unique blend of blue, black and cream slashes make it an exquisite sight.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: It finds sanctuary in open woods, fields and riversides.
  • Appearance: Gothic black wings boast splendid, blue “eyespots” at the edge wavelike cream bands.
  • Size: The adults stretch from 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult nectar sources include milkweed, azalea and butterfly-bush.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place throughout summer.
  • Lifespan: The butterfly has a 2-week lifespan post metamorphosis.
  • Host Plants: The spicebush and other mellow sassafras are its larval hosts.

Its life revolves around its host plant, the spicebush, becoming one with its aroma and taste.

Even its caterpillar phase is visually intriguing, with large eyespots eerily mimicking a snake’s head to its predators. Truly, a marvel of nature’s handicraft.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, is a notable creature you may encounter in North Dakota.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This colorful insect calls a diverse range of environments home, from forests to open fields.
  • Appearance: It’s easily recognized by its remarkably black wings, which sport a vivid yellow band.
  • Size: This species spans an impressive 4-6.3 inches (10-16 cm), earning its name.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on leaves of citrus and other plants. As adults, they enjoy foraging for nectar in various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on host plants. The offspring, or caterpillars, emerge after a few days.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for nearly a month on average.
  • Host Plants: They particularly favor plants in the citrus family but are not peaky and accommodate a variety of plants in their diet.

Visually mesmerizing and environmentally beneficial, the Giant Swallowtail is truly a delight for North Dakota’s ecosystem.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

The Variegated Fritillary is a striking butterfly you’ll encounter in North Dakota.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

Here’s what sets this species apart:

  • Habitat: These butterflies favor wide-open spaces. You’ll find them in fields, roadsides, and even abandoned lots.
  • Appearance: They have orange wings with black spots, giving them a tiger-like appearance. Their undersides showcase a mottled brown and white pattern.
  • Size: They’re medium-sized butterflies, with a wingspan falling between 1.75 and 2.25 inches (4.4 to 5.7 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Variegated Fritillaries feed on nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaves of various host plants in the late summer.
  • Lifespan: The adults have a short lifespan of about a month.
  • Host Plants: They prefer passion vines, violets, and flax for their larvae.

Get a closer look next time you spot one. They’re as intricate as they are beautiful.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

Move closer and snap your binoculars into focus, for you’re witnessing the Gray Hairstreak. One of the most common butterfly species in North Dakota, this butterfly is a joy to observe.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

Let’s delve into the fascinating world of this tiny marvel:

  • Habitat: Preferred habitats range from open spaces to forest edges. You’re likely to spot it in gardens, farmlands, and woodland clearings.
  • Appearance: You’ll find it in a range of grey shades, with blue markings, and distinctive orange and black spots on the hind wings, making it visually striking.
  • Size: This species is small, typically with wingspans of just 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm), perfect for a quick flutter.
  • Diet: Mostly nectar from flowers, but also tree sap and rotting fruit.
  • Reproduction: Mating takes place several times a year. Females lay eggs on host plants where the larvae feed.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for a short period of two weeks on average.
  • Host Plants: Prolific breeders, they lay eggs on a large variety of plants ranging from legumes to mallow.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Perhaps the most well-known butterfly in North America, the Monarch is a frequent visitor to North Dakota.


  • Habitat: Monarchs reside where milkweed abounds, as they are heavily reliant on these plants for reproduction.
  • Appearance: A stunning mix of orange and black, with white speckles on the edges. They’re known for their iconic wings.
  • Size: They typically measure 3.7 – 4.1 inches (9.4 – 10.4 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Monarch caterpillars stick to milkweed. As adults, they feed on nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Monarchs lay their eggs singularly on the underside of milkweed leaves.
  • Lifespan: Monarchs live for 2 to 6 weeks, except the generation that migrates, which can live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: The lifeline of the Monarch, milkweeds, serve as the main host plant where females lay their eggs.

Compton Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum)

The Compton Tortoiseshell is an interesting find in North Dakota. It’s a species not encountered as often as its counterparts.

Compton Tortoiseshell butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find this species in deciduous forests, open woodlands, and even suburban gardens. They have a preference for aspen trees, but also inhabit birch and willow trees.
  • Appearance: The Compton Tortoiseshell is noticeable for its broad wings with intricate dark, irregular stripes on an orange-brown base. Its underwings showcase a camouflage of greys and browns.
  • Size: Its wingspan measures around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm), enough to stand out.
  • Diet: This butterfly requires nectar for sustenance, mostly from flowers including the Michaelmas Daisy, Purple Coneflower, and Marigold.
  • Reproduction: After mating in spring, females lay eggs on host plants, which hatch into caterpillars and then develop into adults.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle takes about one year, with adults often hibernating throughout the winter.
  • Host Plants: Preference is given to aspens and willows, a unique feature among North Dakota butterfly species.

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

The American Snout is a fascinating butterfly species that you can easily spot across North Dakota.

American Snout butterfly

Let’s delve into some details:

  • Habitat: They are commonly found in woodlands, meadows, and areas with deciduous trees.
  • Appearance: This butterfly is brownish-orange with intricate markings, distinct for its extended snout-like labial palps.
  • Size: It can have a wingspan of 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on flower nectar, predominantly from aster and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Female snouts lay single eggs on leaves of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle, from egg to adult, can be as short as a month.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars predominantly feed on hackberry tree leaves.

So, when you’re out exploring North Dakota’s natural world, keep an eye out for the brownish hue of the American Snout amongst the greens!

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

This is one of the most recognized species lurking around North Dakota.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: Known to dwell in wide-ranging habitats, you may find them frequenting open fields, gardens, or the edges of forests.
  • Appearance: The namesake silver spot on their lower hind wing, along with dark brown coloration and yellow spots gives them a rather flashy look.
  • Size: Typically reaching about 2 to 2.6 inches (5 cm to 6.5 cm), these enchanting creatures command attention.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar predominantly, occasionally enjoying tree sap and rotten fruit.
  • Reproduction: Remarkably, the females can lay hundreds of eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their longevity varies from a few days to a few weeks depending on environmental conditions.
  • Host Plants: A variety of trees and shrubs including black locust and honey locust, proving their versatility in their choice of home.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a captivating butterfly species adorning North Dakota’s landscapes. The unique characteristics of this butterfly are quite fascinating.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Let’s dive into details:

  • Habitat: They breed in deciduous woods and urban landscapes.
  • Appearance: These are yellow butterflies with black stripes and a wingspan that looks like a tiger.
  • Size: With a wingspan between 2.5 to 4.5 inches (63.5 – 114.3 mm), they’re fairly large.
  • Diet: They exclusively feed on nectar of wild flowers.
  • Reproduction: They produce two generations per year, planting eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle typically spans 6 to 14 days from egg to pupa.
  • Host Plants: Deciduous trees like wild cherry and tulip tree are host plants for their larvae. Remember, these are just few aspects. The lifestyle of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies can show you many wonders of nature – if you watch closely.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

This adaptable butterfly, the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), thrives in a variety of habitats.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: From meadows to gardens, and even urban parks, it’s adaptable.
  • Appearance: It’s distinguished by a striking pattern of orange and black, punctuated with white and black spots on the wings’ outer edges.
  • Size: A medium-sized species, it measures from 2 to 2.9 inches (50 to 73 mm).
  • Diet: Adults feast on nectar from various flowers, while caterpillars prefer thistles and other plants in the Asteraceae family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay singular eggs on host plants, and the developing larvae feed on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: They have a four-stage life cycle (egg, larva, pupa, adult), and adults typically live 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Thistles, mallows, and legumes are among their favorites.

Summing up, the Painted Lady is a colorful, hardy butterfly that can survive in many settings, adding a dash of color to North Dakota’s landscapes.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary or Agraulis vanillae injects a particularly striking dash of color to North Dakota’s landscape. You’ll be fascinated to learn its features.

gulf fritillary

Here they are:

  • Habitat: Favoring the open fields, gardens, and yards, it thrives in a wide range of environments.
  • Appearance: Its upper side has a deep orange color, with black markings. The underwings are covered in large silver spots.
  • Size: With a wingspan reaching 2.5-3.7 inches (6.4 – 9.5 cm), it is a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adult Gulf Fritillaries prefer pollen from a variety of flowers, while caterpillars feed on the Passion Vine.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale yellow eggs one by one on their host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults tend to live for around three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The Passion Vine is a primary host plant for the Gulf Fritillary’s caterpillar.

Just glancing up and catching sight of this butterfly, with its bright coloration, can truly enrich your walk or nature hike.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple is a captivating butterfly species that you can find dotting the North Dakota landscape. Below, you will get an insight into its life.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot this lovely species in the woods, fields, and sometimes even suburban parks.
  • Appearance: It adorns enthralling hues of dark blue or black, with elusive red spots on its wings.
  • Size: Typical adults have a wingspan ranging from 3 to 3.5 inches (7.6 – 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Consuming the nectar of various plant species like Milkweeds and wild cherry blossoms is their primary diet.
  • Reproduction: They have two broods a year, one in spring and one in late summer.
  • Lifespan: Their life generally spans a few weeks in mild weather, but can extend to several months if they emerge late in the season.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on the leaves of a variety of trees, including willows, cherries, and poplars.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail, also known as Papilio polyxenes, is a fascinating butterfly species.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Below are some noteworthy characteristics of this beautiful creature:

  • Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, fields, and meadows.
  • Appearance: Sports a dazzling black color with vibrant yellow and blue spots. The wings also have two orange eyespots on the underside.
  • Size: Typically ranges between 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm) in wingspan, making it a relatively large butterfly.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on plants from the carrot family. Adult butterflies feed on nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on the leaves of host plants. The eggs hatch into caterpillars, which eventually transform into butterflies.
  • Lifespan: Averages 10 to 14 days for the adult butterfly. Their whole life cycle lasts about a month.
  • Host Plants: Favors plants from the carrot family, including dill, parsley, and carrot, as well as Queen Anne’s Lace.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy, or Limenitis archippus, is one of North Dakota’s most unique butterfly species and here are some splendid facts about it.

Viceroy butterfly

  • Habitat: Viceroys are found around open areas, wet meadows, or near slow-moving water bodies.
  • Appearance: They have a bright orange and black pattern that mirrors the Monarch butterfly. However, they have a black line running through their hind wings which sets them apart.
  • Size: Viceroys have a wingspan of 2.5-3.1 inches (6.4-7.9 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies feast on dung, fungi, and decaying fruits in adult stage. As caterpillars, they feed primarily on willow and poplar leaves.
  • Reproduction: Viceroys lay pale green eggs on leaves of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Viceroys have a life expectancy of about two weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants are willows and poplars.

Stay tuned, there are still many more exquisite butterflies to explore in North Dakota.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark butterfly is indeed one of the unique species that thrive in North Dakota.

Question Mark butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer residing in open woodlands and city parks.
  • Appearance: The outer wing color varies from summer to winter. The summer form is dark brown, while the winter form sports a reddish-orange border.
  • Size: It’s a fairly large butterfly, with a wingspan of 2.25 to 3 in (55 to 75 mm).
  • Diet: The adults feed on rotting fruits, tree sap, and occasionally on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Mating and egg-laying usually happens in spring. The eggs are laid singly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan varies, but most live for about a month. However, the autumn generation can live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: Elm, nettles, and hackberry serve as the primary host plants for the caterpillars.

The distinguishing characteristic of this butterfly is a white mark on the underside of the hind wing, resembling a question mark.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Great Spangled Fritillary adds a unique charm to North Dakota’s diverse butterfly population.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Let’s learn more about this intriguing species:

  • Habitat: These species commonly reside in meadows, fields, and other open areas.
  • Appearance: They showcase orange-brown wings with black spots. The undersides are beautifully adorned with silver spots, lending to its name.
  • Size: Adults have a wingspan between 2.5 – 3.5 inches (6.35 – 8.89 cm); quite a display when in flight.
  • Diet: Primarily feed on nectar from varied flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the host plants. The caterpillars feed on violets after hatching.
  • Lifespan: Adult Fritillaries live for about a month. However, their entire lifecycle from egg to adult spans around a year.
  • Host Plants: Violets serve as their primary host plant, crucial for its continued existence.

Understanding such details about these species fosters an appreciation for the vibrant butterfly diversity we are fortunate to enjoy in North Dakota.

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)

The Tawny Emperor is a fascinating butterfly found in North Dakota. Let’s find out more about this species.

Tawny Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands, open fields and gardens are ideal homes for Tawny Emperors.
  • Appearance: They showcase deep brown shades on the upper side of the wings with small spot patterns. Lower side shows multiple bands of orange and brown hues.
  • Size: Usually, these butterflies measure between 1.6 to 2.75 inches (4 to 7 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Strikingly, they get nutrition from rotting fruit, tree sap, dung and rarely flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs in clusters under the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults live up to two weeks during summer season.
  • Host Plants: Hackberry trees serve as the primary host for Tawny Emperor larvae where they feed on leaves.

Look out for them next time you’re exploring nature. Their unique dietary habits make Tawny Emperors an interesting species to observe.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

Don’t underestimate the beauty of the Eastern Tailed-Blue. Despite being small, this butterfly is incredibly eye-catching due to its vivid blue hue.

This butterfly’s vibrant blue color fades to a light charcoal around the edges, with a delicate tail extending at the rear corners.

Furthermore, tiny white fringe checks lining the border complete the overall design.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: Commonly found in open woods, clearings, and fields.
  • Appearance: Upper-side male wings are violet-blue with a narrow black border; female wings are darker.
  • Size: Typically has a wingspan between 0.75 to 1 inch (around 1.9-2.5 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers and also honeydew.
  • Reproduction: Males perch all day in low, sunny areas to seek receptive females.
  • Lifespan: Adult lifespan is around a week, but muchlonger for the dormant pupal winter stage.
  • Host Plants: Adults lay eggs on different legumes including clover and alfalfa.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is a charming addition to the North Dakota butterfly species.

red admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: This adaptable species inhabits various locales, from mountains to backyards.
  • Appearance: Showcasing a striking contrast, its black wings feature orange and white bands.
  • Size: A mature Red Admiral measures 2 to 2.75 inches (around 5 to 7 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: It has a mixed diet of nectar from more than 100 species of flowering plants and tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Every year, they breed twice, with females laying up to 200 eggs each time.
  • Lifespan: Despite their beauty, their life is brief, lasting only around 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae thrive on nettles, thistles, and even hops.

Resilient and remarkable, the Red Admiral is an unforgettable sight in the North Dakota butterfly scene.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The Clouded Sulphur is one of the many magnificent butterfly species you can spot in North Dakota. These butterflies are predominantly of a soft lemon-yellow color, yet color variants can occur.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Clouded Sulphurs inhabit various open areas like meadows, fields, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: They sport distinct dark edging on their wing borders and are quite a sight to behold in flight.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 1.5 to 2.2 inches (38 to 56 mm), Clouded Sulphurs are medium in size.
  • Diet: These butterflies feed primarily on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Female Clouded Sulphurs lay their eggs on host plants, where larvae feed and develop.
  • Lifespan: Though they live only a few weeks, these creatures make a lasting impact on their ecosystems.
  • Host Plants: Alphabet, White Clover, and other legumes typically serve as their host plants.

Despite their short lifespans, Clouded Sulphurs play an essential role in the pollination process.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma Butterfly is a silent charmer featuring in the exquisite butterfly display of North Dakota. Let us delve into this species’ intriguing characteristics further.

Eastern Comma butterfly

  • Habitat: Mostly found in wooded areas and open fields.
  • Appearance: The butterfly has a distinctive bright-orange with black-spotted wings in summer. In contrast, winter forms are darker, offering excellent camouflage.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 1.75-2.5 inches (4.5 – 6.5 cm), it’s small but significant.
  • Diet: They sip tree sap, rotten fruits, and occasionally, flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on hop vines and nettles, the primary host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults can live for several weeks in summer, while winter-born ones live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: Mainly rely on hop vines and nettles.

It’s delightful to spot an Eastern Comma in North Dakota, with their unique comma-shaped white spots on the underside of their wings, making identification easy.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a unique butterfly species you’ll find in North Dakota.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

Here’s a rundown:

  • Habitat: These butterflies are most commonly spotted around hackberry trees, their favored location in open woodlands and near streams.
  • Appearance: The Hackberry Emperor sports a warm color scheme with various brown hues, silver spots on the underside, and eye-like patterns on the upper forewings.
  • Size: With wingspans measuring between 1.6 to 2.6 inches (4 to 6.5 cm), they’re not the largest butterflies out there, but still quite noticeable.
  • Diet: Nectar isn’t the only thing these butterflies feed on. They also enjoy tree sap, rotting fruit, and even dung.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their greenish eggs singly on their host plants during summer.
  • Lifespan: The adults live for about 10-20 days, most of which is spent seeking mates and laying eggs.
  • Host Plants: The Hackberry Emperor larvae feed exclusively on hackberry tree leaves, thus the name.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur, also known as the Alfalfa butterfly, is a common feature in the North Dakota landscape.

Renowned for its exceptional flying speed, it’s easily noticed dash of orange or yellow fluttering around grasslands, meadows, and fields.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: It has a preference for open, sunny areas; grassy fields, meadows, roadsides, suburbs.
  • Appearance: They primarily have orange upper wings with a tinge of yellow. The males have a broad dark margin on wings.
  • Size: This butterfly species boasts a wingspan of about 1.3 inches to 1.7 inches (33 to 45 millimeters).
  • Diet: As adults, they thrive on the nectar of flowers like clovers, mallows, or thistles.
  • Reproduction: The females lay single, pale-green eggs on the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The Orange Sulphur has a lifespan of merely a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars are found mainly on alfalfa, white clover, and other legumes.

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

California Tortoiseshell is a fascinating butterfly species that can be seen in North Dakota.

California Tortoiseshell butterfly

  • Habitat: Preferring a wide range of environments, these butterflies often reside in forested or mountainous areas.
  • Appearance: Possessing sharp orange wings with black spots, they showcase a dimmer, grayer camouflage pattern underneath.
  • Size: On average, these butterflies measure 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As adults, they nectar on available flowers, and caterpillars feed mainly on host plants.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay clusters of eggs on the host plants which hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: While adults can live up to several weeks, the overall lifecycle from egg to butterfly spans about 1 to 2 months.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plant for their caterpillars is the Ceanothus species, commonly known as California lilac.

California Tortoiseshells are a joy to observe for nature enthusiasts and lepidopterists alike.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady butterfly is a joy to observe in North Dakota.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies inhabit a diverse range of environments from meadows and roadsides to gardens.
  • Appearance: They are characterized by their attractive multi-colored, orange topsides with black and white spots on the wings.
  • Size: Adult butterflies typically measure between 2 to 2.75 inches (5.1 to 7 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult American Ladies feed on nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: The mating season usually begins in spring and extends into early fall.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is 2 weeks, but the longest recorded lifespan is a year.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on plants from the sunflower family, specially cudweeds, everlastings and pearly-everlastings.

As a butterfly enthusiast, you can spot this stunning species throughout the warmer seasons. They exhibit a vibrant display of colors that can add beauty to your butterfly watching experience.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

The Cabbage White butterfly, known scientifically as Pieris rapae, is an unassuming, yet significant member of North Dakota’s diverse butterfly population.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in abundance across North Dakota, particularly thriving in open spaces, gardens, meadows, and farmland.
  • Appearance: Cabbage Whites are quite recognizable with their white wings with black tips and small black dots on the upper side.
  • Size: Their size is pretty modest, typically ranging between 1.3 to 2 inches (3.3 to 5.1 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adults feed mostly on flower nectar, while caterpillars munch on plants in the mustard family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves – a single female can lay hundreds of eggs in her lifetime.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for around 2 weeks, with females generally living longer.
  • Host plants: The caterpillars mostly feed on plants in the Brassicaceae family, such as cabbages, broccoli, and radishes.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye is a fascinating butterfly you will encounter in North Dakota.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: Common Buckeyes prefer open, sunny areas with low vegetation and some bare ground.
  • Appearance: This captivating butterfly showcases eye-like spots on its wings, which differ in color from season to season.
  • Size: A medium-sized species, its wingspan stretches from 2 to 2.8 inches (50.8 – 71.12 mm).
  • Diet: As adults, these butterflies take nourishment from nectar of a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single, greenish eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: They have a short lifespan of about 2 weeks as adults.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on plantain species, like the ‘Plantago lanceolata’ and certain snapdragons like the ‘Linaria’.

Take the chance to observe this remarkable species. Its distinct eye-spots make it easily identifiable, providing a unique viewing experience.

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

The Queen Butterfly, scientifically known as Danaus gilippus, is one of the stunning species that you can spot in North Dakota.

Like a reigning monarch, this butterfly commands attention with its breathtaking beauty.

Queen Butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in sunny open spaces, they prefer the warmth of meadows and roadsides.
  • Appearance: They are characterized by their dark brown wings bordered with black, interspersed with white spots, giving them a stylish look.
  • Size: A fairly large species, their wingspan ranges from 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.35 to 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Queens feast on nectar from various flowers, providing an all-important role as pollinators.
  • Reproduction: This species goes through 3-4 generations a year with a complex life cycle from egg to caterpillar and to butterfly.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is few weeks, though some can live for several months.
  • Host Plants: Queens commonly feed on milkweed plants, which provide an invaluable source of nectar.

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia)

The Regal Fritillary is a sight that will leave you utterly captivated. This butterfly species sports a vibrant orange color that will immediately catch your eye.

Regal fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Let’s first talk about habitat. They are inhabitants of tallgrass prairies and are spotted in areas with open grasslands.
  • Appearance: With their wings open, the upper side showcases a bright orange with black markings. You’ll notice a row of white spots near the edge.
  • Size: They are a sizable breed, measuring around 2.75-4 inches (7-10 cm) on average.
  • Diet: The adults feed on nectar-rich flowers, while the caterpillars go for violets, especially bird-foot violets.
  • Reproduction: Eggs are laid on or near violets, which serve as the host plants for the larvae after they hatch.
  • Lifespan: Fritillaries have a full life cycle of around one year. Caterpillars overwinter in the base of the plant and pupate in the spring.
  • Host Plants: As stated before, violets, especially bird-foot violets, are the primary host plants for this species.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

Mourning Cloak, scientifically known as “Nymphalis antiopa”, is one of North Dakota’s well-distinguished butterflies.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find these butterflies in wild environments often. Woods, parks, and gardens attract them.
  • Appearance: They flaunt wings that look ragged with dark brown, maroon, and yellow colors. The larvae are spiny and black.
  • Size: An adult’s wingspan measures around 2.2 to 4 inches or 5.5 to 10 cm.
  • Diet: Adult mourning cloaks feed mainly on tree sap. Caterpillars consume leaves of various plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs in clusters on a suitable host plant.
  • Lifespan: Intriguingly, mourning cloaks can live up to a year. The longest among any butterflies in North Dakota!
  • Host plants: Willow, elm, poplar, and hackberry trees serve as crucial host plants.

Mourning Cloak’s adaptation to several climates makes it enjoyable for butterfly enthusiasts across Dakota all year. Next time you’re out, look out for this unique butterfly!


In conclusion, North Dakota is a flourishing habitat for a wide variety of butterflies. These 30 species showcase the region’s rich biodiversity and reflect the health of our ecosystems.

Please leave a comment to share your experiences or questions about these remarkable creatures!

Butterflies   Updated: August 12, 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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