30 Butterfly Species in Pennsylvania

In butterfly-rich Pennsylvania, you can find 30 unique species fluttering across the state.

This article serves as your guide to these beautiful creatures, offering insights about their characteristics and habitats.

Whether you’re an admirer or researcher, this comprehensive overview is sure to enhance your butterfly knowledge.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Meet the Great Spangled Fritillary, a keystone species in Pennsylvania. With a knack to stand out amidst the greenery, it contributes to the rich biodiversity of the region.

Great Spangled Fritillary

  • Habitat: Exposed to various habitats, you’ll find these butterflies in open woods, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: They sport an orange-brown color with black spots on the upper side of their wings. The undersides exhibit distinctive silver spots, making them easily recognizable.
  • Size: A decent size, they often measure between 2.5 to 4 inches (6.35 to 10.16 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Owing to their nectar preference, these nectarivorous insects are commonly seen around milkweed and thistles.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on or near violets, the caterpillar’s food source.
  • Lifespan: Your garden might host them for about a month, given their short adult lifespan.
  • Host Plants: Violet plants serve as the host, providing both a laying spot for eggs and nourishment for caterpillars.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

A vibrantly colored species, the Monarch butterfly reigns as one of Pennsylvania’s most notable inhabitants. Monarchs are famed for their incredible migratory patterns.

They have garnered global attention due to their rapidly declining populations, primarily due to habitat loss.


  • Habitat: Residing in meadows, fields and gardens.
  • Appearance: Boasting distinctive orange wings laced with bold, black lines and a sprinkle of white dots, a sight of them is breathtaking.
  • Size: Typically span from 3.5 to 4 inches (8.9 to 10.2 cm), making them one of the largest butterfly species.
  • Diet: Monarchs primarily feed on nectar from a wide array of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed plants. These plants serve as a food source for the emerging caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live 2 to 6 weeks, but the generation that emerges in late summer can live up to 8 months.
  • Host Plants: Milkweeds are the primary host plants for Monarchs. They are crucial to the butterfly’s life cycle and reproduction.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple is a butterfly you’ll be captivated by in Pennsylvania due to its strikingly beautiful aesthetic.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Let’s break down some of its fascinating aspects:

  • Habitat: Preferring wooded areas and alongside streams, it is quite adaptable to other environments too.
  • Appearance: Known for its iridescent blue wings, it also has majestic red spots on its lower wings.
  • Size: Medium to large butterfly, its wingspan ranges from 2.5 to 4 inches (approximately 6.35 to 10.15 cm).
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, and dung, while the larvae enjoy the leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on the tips of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for approximately 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on the leaves of many tree species, including aspens, cottonwoods, and cherries.

Black Swallowtail(Papilio polyxenes)

Believe me, the Black Swallowtail is a sight to behold. Discover its charm, imbued in its distinct black, yellow and blue marking.

Ranging from 3.1 to 3.9 inches (8 to 10 cm) in size, these beauties are found in a variety of habitats.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Commonly found in open areas like fields, meadows and gardens. Both rural and urban locations are frequented.
  • Appearance: Remarkable, with dark black wings edged in yellow. Blue and red markings also adorn the wings.
  • Size: They range from 3.1 to 3.9 inches (8 to 10 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar, sap flows, and rotting fruit. Their larvae mostly feed on host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale yellow eggs, which turn into caterpillars within a week.
  • Lifespan: Short 10-12 days as an adult. However, they live for about a year in their combined life stages.
  • Host Plants: Favor plants in the carrot family, including parsley, dill, and fennel.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor butterfly (Asterocampa celtis) is a common sighting in Pennsylvania. With a patterned brown and white underwing, this butterfly is easily identified.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are often found near hackberry trees, where their larvae feed.
  • Appearance: The upper surface of the wings is similar to a leaf while the underside is mottled brown and white with two orange eye spots.
  • Size: Typically, the Hackberry Emperor has a wingspan of 1.5 to 2.75 inches (3.81 to 7 cm).
  • Diet: Adults like to feed on sap, dung, carrion, and rarely flowers.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay round, smooth, green eggs on the undersides of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies generally live around one month.
  • Host Plants: Hackberry Emperor larvae feed on hackberry tree species.

Meet this butterfly during late summer as it is the peak season. They can skip flowers and will often land on you, making your butterfly watching experience more delightful.

Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)

The Red-banded Hairstreak is one of Pennsylvania’s most fascinating butterfly species. They have a unique behavior of feeding by hopping from flower to flower, rather than fully opening their wings and exposing their vibrant colors.

Red-banded Hairstreak butterfly

Here is a quick insight into their features:

  • Habitat: Woodlands, gardens, and fields. They are partial to the Southeastern areas of Pennsylvania.
  • Appearance: Predominantly gray with a distinct red band of color on the underside of their wings.
  • Size: Typical wing span ranges from 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: They feed on nectar from flowers, the sap of trees, and sometimes even bird droppings.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live 5-10 days depending on environmental conditions.
  • Host Plants: Mainly oak and hickory trees, where their larvae can feed.

This species is truly a beauty to behold, making the Pennsylvania outdoors even more brilliant.

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)

The Tawny Emperor is a fascinating butterfly species inhabiting Pennsylvania.

Tawny Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: It can typically be found in open woodlands and forests.
  • Appearance: It boasts a robust orange-brown color, adorned with patches of lighter tones and a tiny eye spot on each hind wing.
  • Size: Wing span measures between 2.1 to 2.7 inches (5.3 to 6.9 cm).
  • Diet: Unlike other butterfly species, the Tawny Emperor feeds primarily on tree sap, decaying fruit, dung, and occasionally nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females will lay clusters of eggs on the underside of leaves, which hatch into caterpillars that feed communally.
  • Lifespan: This butterfly usually lasts for 2 to 3 weeks in its adult form.
  • Host Plants: Hackberry trees are its preferred hosts, where the larvae feed on leaves before transitioning into pupae.

This butterfly is a joy for any keen observer, especially in the summer months when it emerges in its full glory.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

The Cloudless Sulphur is a notable butterfly species in Pennsylvania. You’ll often find it fluttering around open areas that are abundant with sunshine.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: The residents of open, sunny locales, they’re often seen around gardens, fields, and road sides.
  • Appearance: They display a striking yellow or greenish tint earning them the nickname “cloudless”, both sexes resemble each other.
  • Size: Their size ranges from 2.25 to 3.125 inches (57-79 mm), making them larger than most sulphurs.
  • Diet: They mainly feed on nectar and are partial to red and pink flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants, which later transform into yellow or green caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Though their exact lifespan is unknown, like most butterflies, they likely live 2-4 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plants are cassia species in pea family, where the females lay their eggs.

Their striking appearance and graceful flight make them a delight to observe.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, or Papilio glaucus, is a well-recognised butterfly species. Noted for its stunning colors and stripes that resemble a tiger, let’s delve into the unique attributes of this creature.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is found in various habitats. They thrive in woodlands, fields, and near water sources.
  • Appearance: They’re known for their yellow and black striped wings. A blue tinge appears when sunlight hits their wings just right.
  • Size: Full-grown adults have an impressive wingspan of 3-5.5 inches or 8-14 centimeters.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies sip nectar from a variety of flowers. Caterpillars munch on the leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay their eggs individually on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about 2 weeks while caterpillars mature over 18-21 days.
  • Host Plants: Favorites include wild cherry, willow, poplar, and ash trees.

These colorful butterflies add a dash of vibrant beauty to any environment they grace.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Let’s dive deeper about the Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).


  • Habitat: This butterfly is common in open, moist areas including meadows, marshes, and swamps.
  • Appearance: Viceroys have an orange and black pattern, many times mistaken for a Monarch butterfly. However, a unique black line across the hindwing distinguishes them.
  • Size: A medium-sized butterfly, its wingspan ranges between 2.5 – 3 inches (6.4 – 7.6 centimeters).
  • Diet: As adults, Viceroys sip nectar from flowers. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of willow, poplar, and aspen trees.
  • Reproduction: After mating, female Viceroys lay green eggs one by one on host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Typically, their life cycle from egg to adult spans about a month.
  • Host Plants: Willows, Poplars, and Aspen trees serve as crucial hosts for their caterpillar stage.

The Viceroy is an interesting and vital part of Pennsylvania’s butterfly population. It contributes significantly to the state’s ecological balance.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

This miniature butterfly, the Eastern Tailed-Blue, is indeed a treat to watch. Let’s see why!

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: Open, sunny areas covered by wildflowers – meadows, fields, and roadsides. Forest edges too.
  • Appearance: Upper wings are a brilliant blue, while underwings have an eye-catching pattern often with orange spots.
  • Size: Surprisingly small, a wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: Adults primarily feed on the nectar of flowers. Caterpillars munch on legumes.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the buds of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifecycle lasts around one month, with multiple generations in a year.
  • Host Plants: A variety of legumes, especially plants like alfalfa and clover.

Eastern Tailed-Blues effortlessly add more color and life to Pennsylvania! Have you been lucky enough to spot one recently?

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

This butterfly is not only fascinating but also enchanting. This species is commonly found throughout Pennsylvania.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: They are fond of moist environments and found commonly in forests, gardens, and parks.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts a deep blue or black wing color adorned by vibrant red spots. The underside of the wing also has an iridescent blue shade.
  • Size: Their wingspan can range between 2.5 to 4 inches (6.35 to 10.2 cm), making them a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: They feed on fermenting fruit, sap, and dung. However, they also do not shy from nectar of flowers.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on the host plants, which hatch into caterpillars within few days.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of Red-spotted Purple is about 2 weeks. However, those that emerge later in the season may live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: The favored host plants include wild cherry, birch, aspen, willow, and poplar.

The Red-spotted Purple is a captivating butterfly, worth cherishing in the local ecosystem.

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Let’s take a detailed look at the Long-tailed Skipper.

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

  • Habitat: Frequently found in sunny open spaces such as gardens, yards, and alongside paths.
  • Appearance: A stunning cobalt blue body color with a beautiful long tail on each hindwing. They also have a distinct white stripe across their wings.
  • Size: Roughly 1.75-2.25 inches (4.4-5.7 cm) when fully grown.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar from flowers such as thistles, beggarticks, and sweet pepperbush.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs, individually, on host plants.
  • Lifespan: An average of two months as a butterfly, but the entire lifecycle from egg to adult can take 2-3 months.
  • Host Plants: They use a variety of legume plants including wild indigo, hog peanut, and wisteria.

Despite having a fast and strong flight, the Long-tailed Skipper can often be found resting in sunny spots, making them a welcomed sight in gardens.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

You’ll quickly recognize the Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) by its lovely blue wings that reflect the early spring sky.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefer woodland edges, open woods, and shrubby fields.
  • Appearance: Bright blue upperwing, with pale, almost translucent lower wings. It exhibits a subtle pattern of spots and lines.
  • Size: Quite small, with a wing span range of 0.75 to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.54 centimeters).
  • Diet: Feed primarily on flower nectar, prefer those of viburnum and blueberry.
  • Reproduction: Females lay greenish-white eggs singly on flower buds. These hatch into caterpillars that are green with white and yellow lines.
  • Lifespan: Short but sweet, living only a few weeks as adults.
  • Host Plants: Mainly use flowers of trees and shrubs like viburnum, dogwood, and blueberry for depositing eggs. Caterpillars feed on the buds and flowers.

The Spring Azure butterfly’s presence is a sure sign that the cold winter is finally over and spring is in the air.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper butterfly, scientifically known as Lycaena phlaeas, is among the many unique species that grace the state of Pennsylvania.

Their presence adds beauty to the natural landscapes.

American Copper butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers open spaces like grasslands, heathlands, and sunny road margins.
  • Appearance: Sports a captivating orange color intercepted with dark brownish lines. Its under-wings are adorned with gray and black spots.
  • Size: A miniature marvel with a wingspan of just 22-32mm (0.86-1.25 inches).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar from a variety of flowers. The caterpillars consume common sorrel and dock leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of the host plant. These hatch into caterpillars which pupate to form chrysalises.
  • Lifespan: Short but fruitful, living up to only three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larvae rely heavily on members of the dock family (Rumex).

This small butterfly’s admirers have many opportunities to spot it, given its multiple broods in a single year, typically from May through October.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady, scientifically known as Vanessa virginiensis, is a delight to the eyes with its intricate patterns and vibrant hue.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Commonly found across the diverse landscapes of Pennsylvania, this butterfly prefers open fields, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: This species displays a striking orange and black pattern on its upper wings, combined with multiple eye spots. The underside is mottled in browns and grays.
  • Size: As an adult, it spans about 2-2.75 inches or 5-7 centimeters.
  • Diet: Food primarily comprises nectar from numerous flower species, and occasionally sap.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on the tops of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The American Lady has a lifespan of approximately two weeks in its butterfly stage.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on a variety of plants, with preference for species of the Aster family.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is a common sight in Pennsylvania. As a butterfly aficionado, you’ll certainly want to spot a few!

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: This species favours open woodlands and fields, so keep your eyes peeled in these areas.
  • Appearance: It features a unique brown and silver-grey coloring with a distinctive silver spot on the lower hindwing.
  • Size: The wingspan of Silver-spotted Skippers is around 1.8 to 2.8 inches (4.6-7.1 cm), giving it a noticeable presence.
  • Diet: Flowers are a staple, particularly those from the pea family. Along with nectar, they also feed on sap, aphid honeydew, and dung.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies produce one to two broods per year, usually from May to September.
  • Lifespan: In the butterfly stage, they live approximately a month.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae are specially adapted to feed on Black Locusts, but also consume other legumes. A varied diet ensures a healthy population.

You can encourage Silver-spotted Skippers into your backyard by planting appropriate host plants and providing nectar sources.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Take a moment to marvel at the Gulf Fritillary, a stunning butterfly, abundant in the South-eastern US territories.

gulf fritillary

Let’s delve into the fascinating world of this graceful creature:

  • Habitat: They love sunbathed gardens and open areas. You’ll often see them near patches of their host plant, the Passion Vine.
  • Appearance: Orange and elongate wings set the Gulf Fritillary apart. Equally striking are its silver-spotted underwings.
  • Size: On average, they span 2.4 to 3.5 inches, or 6 to 8.9 cm.
  • Diet: Adults drink nectar from various flowers like lantanas.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on Passion Vines. Eggs hatch after ~10 days becoming caterpillars, which later pupate.
  • Lifespan: Around three weeks as an adult within which they must mate and continue the cycle.
  • Host Plants: The unmistakable Passion Vine is their chosen nursery, offering food and shelter to developing caterpillars.

Learning about this butterfly can surely deepen your appreciation for nature’s diversity in Pennsylvania.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur or Alfalfa Butterfly, is commonly spotted, offering a splash of color.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Vibrantly adapts to open spaces, fields, meadows, and particularly places with alfalfa crops.
  • Appearance: Exhibits predominantly orange palette, with some females showcasing greenish-white hues. The underside of the hind wing spots a silver cell spot rimmed with pink.
  • Size: Average wingspan remains between 1.3 to 2.2 inches (3.3 to 5.6 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies favour nectar from flowers, such as asters and alfalfa. Caterpillars enjoy alfalfa, white clover, and peas.
  • Reproduction: Prolific reproducers, with females laying greenish eggs singularly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived; spans only about a week in their adult life.
  • Host Plants: Preference for alfalfa, white clover, and peas, which cater to the feeding needs of their larvae, and these plants serve as their prime egg-laying spots.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail is one of numerous captivating butterfly species found in Pennsylvania.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This species favors open woodlands and nearby fields.
  • Appearance: Its bold black and white stripes, hence the name, ‘Zebra’, make it easy to identify.
  • Size: The Zebra Swallowtail has a wingspan of 3.75-4.5 inches, or 8-11 cm. It’s among the larger butterflies in the region.
  • Diet: Besides nectaring on a variety of flowers, the adults can often be found feeding on rotten fruit or damp soil.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her tiny green eggs on the underside of pawpaw leaves.
  • Lifespan: The adults have a short lifespan of about a month during the summer. However, the last brood of the year overwinters as a full-grown caterpillar.
  • Host Plants: The pawpaw tree is the host plant, the only food source for the caterpillars. This is why it’s common to see these butterflies near pawpaw patches.

Zebra Swallowtails are radiant creatures that bring life and color to Pennsylvania’s landscapes.

Regal Fritillary (Speyeria idalia)

Affectionately called the “prairie royalty”, the Regal Fritillary is a treasured sight in Pennsylvania.

Regal fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: They populate tallgrass prairies and meadows, often close to streams.
  • Appearance: Their velvety upper wings in a radiant orange and dotted with black spots contrast dramatically with the below-wing pattern dominated by white and brownish bands, and pearly eyespots.
  • Size: The wingspan measures around 2.5 to 4 inches (6.4 to 10.1 cm), making them easily noticeable.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies typically sip on nectar. Flowers like purple coneflower and butterfly milkweed are their preferred dining spots.
  • Reproduction: Females lay greenish eggs on host plant leaves, which hatch to become beautifully patterned caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan in the butterfly stage lasts around a week, during which they live an energetic life.
  • Host Plants: Violets are predominantly the host plants for the regal larvae.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

As you explore Pennsylvanian meadows or gardens, you may spot the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus). It’s one of the most common hairstreaks in North America.

Despite its name, this butterfly’s beauty is far from gray.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive in open areas and adapt to various habitats, such as meadows, fields, and gardens. They’re very versatile.
  • Appearance: Gray Hairstreaks are easily recognized by their pearly, gray wings with delicate, black lines. An orange spot on the blue tail area is a distinct feature.
  • Size: On average, their wings spread about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.7 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar-feeders, they enjoy feasting on flowers such as milkweed and mint.
  • Reproduction: The females lay eggs on host plants where caterpillars have more than 100 possibilities to feed.
  • Lifespan: Adult Gray Hairstreaks live for about a week or two.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed on a variety of plants, including cotton, peas, clovers, beans, and mallow.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Meet the Common Buckeye, a butterfly most unique with its varied and striking patterns. Its name is an homage to their eye-like spots or “buck-eyes”.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: Buckeyes thrive in open sunny areas. They are mostly found in fields, parks, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: They exhibit a rich brown base color, punctuated by two orange bars and six eye-like spots.
  • Size: With their wings spread open, they range from 1.5 to 2.8 inches (38 – 71mm).
  • Diet: The Common Buckeye feeds on nectar. Favored flowers include those of the aster, knapweed and chicory.
  • Reproduction: Buckeye butterflies produce multiple generations annually, laying round, green eggs singly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: They live for around two weeks, a short but full life.
  • Host Plants: The larvae devour a variety of plants such as plantain, snapdragon, and stonecrop.

Their distinct markings and love for sunny open spaces make the Common Buckeye a joyful sight in Pennsylvania’s landscapes.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is a captivating butterfly species you can come across in Pennsylvania.

painted lady butterfly


  • Habitat: These creatures seek varied habitats, from gardens to meadows.
  • Appearance: Acknowledge its unique pattern. It has brown and orange wings with patchy black and white spots.
  • Size: On average, they display a wingspan of 2 to 2.9 inches (5 to 7.3 cm).
  • Diet: These butterflies feed on nectar from a plethora of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their pale green eggs on the upper leaf surfaces.
  • Lifespan: Painted Ladies can live up to two weeks during summer, assuming favorable conditions.
  • Host Plants: Thistles, hollyhock, and mallow are chosen for egg depositing and serve as food for the larvae.

Although often mistaken for other species, the Painted Lady stands out with its exquisite colors and patterns.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

Hailing from Europe, the Cabbage White has made Pennsylvania its home. Recognizable by its white color and one to two black spots on each wing.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are highly adaptable, often found in gardens, fields, and park areas.
  • Appearance: They exhibit a brilliant white color with distinctive dark spots. Females typically have two on each wing, while males have one.
  • Size: They have a wingspan of approximately 2 inches (5 cm), making them moderately sized.
  • Diet: The adults feed on flower nectar, while the caterpillars feed on cruciferous vegetables.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on host plants. Each can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetime.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for a couple of weeks, but with favorable conditions, they can live up to a month.
  • Host Plants: Particularly fond of broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other plants in the mustard family.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

The Aphrodite Fritillary, also known in scientific circles as the Speyeria aphrodite, is one striking butterfly species.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterfly


  • Habitat: Typically, they’re found in mountainous regions and in lush, grassland habitats in Pennsylvania. Their outreach can also extend to West Canada and down to Northern California.
  • Appearance: They boast an attractive color pattern. Their wings are suffused with orange-brown with black markings and spots scattered across.
  • Size: Generally, these beautiful creatures expand to a wingspan of 2.4-3.5 inches (6-9 cm).
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar from purple or yellow flowers, showing a clear preference for thistles.
  • Reproduction: They lay their eggs on violet leaves – their preferred host plants. The caterpillars emerge and devour these with gusto.
  • Lifespan: The typical lifespan is a few weeks, with some exceptions living up to several months.
  • Host Plants: Aphrodite Fritillary commonly select violets as their host plant.

Aphrodite Fritillary butterflies truly are a sight to behold. Their colorful, speckled wings fluttering in the sun make for a beautiful sight in the wild greenery of Pennsylvania.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is one of the most distinct butterfly species that graces Pennsylvania, identifiable by its vibrant coloration and distinct patterns.

This butterfly has some noteworthy facts attached to its name.

red-admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Red Admirals are adaptable and are found in a range of environments from sunny, open areas to shady woodlands.
  • Appearance: They have dark wings marked with red bands and white spots. This makes them easily recognizable in the crowd of Pennsylvania butterflies.
  • Size: Adult Red Admirals are medium-sized with a wingspan ranging from 1.75 to 3 inches (4.4 to 7.6 cm).
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on sap, rotting fruit, and nectar from flowers like milkweed and aster.
  • Reproduction: Red Admirals lay single, green eggs on the tops of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of these butterflies is about 6 months.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on nettles, including stinging nettle, tall wild nettle, and wood nettle.

The Red Admiral surely offers a delightful sight for nature lovers in Pennsylvania.

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)

The White Admiral is a North American butterfly that stands out in the forest habitats of Pennsylvania.

White Admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Large tracts of woodlands and forest edges.
  • Appearance: Its elegant upper wings boast an eye-catching black and white pattern. Below, faint rows of red and blue spots are visible.
  • Size: Grown butterflies reach a wingspan of 2.4-4 inches (6-10 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed primarily on sap, rotting fruit, and animal dung. They can also extract nutrition from mud.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs singly on leaves, primarily on preferred host plants.
  • Lifespan: They typically live around two weeks, but second generation adults can hibernate and live up to nine months.
  • Host Plants: Their caterpillars thrive on willow, poplar, and birch leaves.

Filled with beauty and uniqueness, the White Admiral is a marvel of Pennsylvania’s butterfly population. Its adaptation to forest life and surprising diet make it a fascinating subject of study.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa, is undeniably one of the most striking butterfly species inhabiting Pennsylvania.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically found in woodlands and parks.
  • Appearance: Charcoal-black wings with jarring yellow borders, and a row of iridescent blue spots near the edge.
  • Size: Wingspan ranging from 2.25 to 4 inches (5.7 to 10.2 cm), making it rather large in relation to many other species.
  • Diet: Unlike most butterflies, the Mourning Cloak prefers tree sap, especially oaks, rotting fruit and even animal dung.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of eggs, up to several hundreds, on host plants in Spring.
  • Lifespan: An average Mourning Cloak lives up to 11 months, longer than most butterflies. It is capable of hibernating over winter.
  • Host Plants: Commonly include willows, elms, and poplars. The caterpillars are spiny and colorful, with patterns of red, yellow, and black.

This dark beauty is a year-round enchantment in Pennsylvania’s sweeping landscapes.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail, or Papilio cresphontes, is an enthralling butterfly species found in Pennsylvania. It boasts an extensive geographical range, and Pennsylvania forms a part of it.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: They favor sunny places and are often found near water sources.
  • Appearance: It has a brownish-black body with bold yellow bands, making it a spectacle to behold.
  • Size: The wingspan ranges between 4.1 – 5.5 inches (10.5 – 14 cm).
  • Diet: Adults mainly feed on nectar from a variety of plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan in the wild is roughly 2 months.
  • Host Plants: They prefer plants like citrus, ash, and black cherry for laying eggs.

The Giant Swallowtail is a large and impressive butterfly, a perfect example of nature’s unmatched artistry. Whenever you witness one flutter by, take a moment to appreciate its exceptional allure.


From the regality of the Monarch to the intricate details of the Black Swallowtail, butterflies add beauty to Pennsylvania’s landscape.

Now you’ve discovered 30 of the breathtaking species that call this state home. Why not leave a comment to share which one captured your heart?

Butterflies   Updated: July 27, 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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