30 Butterfly Species in Rhode Island

In this article, we are exploring 30 incredible butterfly species found in Rhode Island.

You’ll discover fascinating facts about each species, which will enhance your understanding of these enchanting creatures.

Get ready to take a colorful, fluttery journey through the smallest state in the U.S!

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma, scientifically known as Polygonia comma, is a butterfly species native to North America.

Eastern Comma butterfly

Let’s dive into its fascinating characteristics:

  • Habitat: Predominant in deciduous forests and fields.
  • Appearance: It comes with a unique “comma,” or white mark on its underwings.
  • Size: Adult Eastern Commas range between 1.75 to 2.25 inches (4.4 to 5.7 cm) in width.
  • Diet: Known for its love of tree sap, especially from oaks. They also feed on rotting fruit and occasionally nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay the eggs singly on nettle leaves, their caterpillar host plant.
  • Lifespan: Adults enjoy an impressive lifespan for a butterfly, living up to several weeks.
  • Host Plants: Eastern Commas favor Hackberry, Elms, and Nettles for laying eggs, with Nettles being especially favored by the caterpillars.

These peculiar creatures can often be seen in the wild executing their brilliantly camouflaged underwing display.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

The Spring Azure is a small, delicate butterfly whose beauty truly shines in the spring.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer deciduous or mixed forests and their periphery, but are commonly seen in suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: Blue is the dominant color, though females show lighter tones tending towards white. The wing undersides feature intricate patterns, transitioning between white, grey, and blue.
  • Size: Its wingspan is a diminutive 0.8-1.25 inches or 20-32 millimeters.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed mainly on flower nectar and occasionally tree sap.
  • Reproduction: Eggs are laid on flower buds of the host plant. After hatching, the caterpillars feed on the flowers and fruits.
  • Lifespan: The Spring Azure has one of the shorter butterfly lifespans, living only 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Its caterpillars feast on a wide variety of plants, including Dogwood, Meadowsweet, New Jersey Tea, and Viburnums.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Meet the Black Swallowtail, a common inhabitant of Rhode Island.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in open fields, gardens, and even city parks.
  • Appearance: It displays a striking mix of black and yellow coloration with a characteristic tailed wing shape.
  • Size: Adult Black Swallowtails typically range between 3.1 to 3.9 inches (7.9 to 9.9 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, it feasts on leaves. As an adult, it’s drawn to a variety of nectar-producing flowers.
  • Reproduction: After mating, female butterflies deposit their spherical, cream-colored eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: In butterfly form, the lifespan averages two weeks. Including caterpillar and chrysalis stages, the life-cycle is typically less than a year.
  • Host Plants: Members of the carrot family, such as Queen Anne’s Lace, serve as ideal host plants for the developing larvae. Gardening with these plants can attract and support Black Swallowtail populations.

Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia)

The Common Ringlet, scientifically known as Coenonympha tullia, is an intriguing butterfly species. This particular species is quite versatile when it comes to its habitat.

It can be found in a wide range of environments including grasslands, wet meadows, and woodland edges.

Common Ringlet butterfly

  • Habitat: Grasslands, marshes, and woodland edges.
  • Appearance: Brown upper wings with a small, yellow-ringed, black eye-spot. The underwings are grayish-brown.
  • Size: Wingspans range between 1.25 to 1.75 inches (3.2 to 4.5 cm), qualifying them as small to medium in size.
  • Diet: The caterpillars feed on different grasses, while adult butterflies are attracted to flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs singly on the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The life cycle from egg to adult lasts about a month.
  • Host Plants: The main host plants are grasses such as bluegrass and bentgrass.

Pay attention while roaming in the wild; the chance of coming across one of these butterflies is higher than you might think!

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

This particular species, the Silver-spotted Skipper, is quite unique in its characteristics.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

Let’s delve into those attributes:

  • Habitat: Predominantly found in open woods, fields, and gardens; adaptable to various environments.
  • Appearance: Characterized by its dark brown body, with an easily spotted silver-white spot on the hindwing underside.
  • Size: Typically ranges between 1.6 to 2.5 inches (4 to 6.3 cm).
  • Diet: Mostly feeds on nectar from flowering plants like red clover and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly, which then hatch to feed on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived, averaging about a week during summer months, while overwintering pupae can live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: Commonly laid on black locust, but can also be found on other types of legume plants.

Each aspect helps to paint a vivid picture of this butterfly species, uniquely adapted to survive in its chosen habitat.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail is a fascinating butterfly inhabiting Rhode Island. An eye-catcher, it glides through the air with style.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: This species prefers open woodlands and fields. It thrives around pawpaw trees, the larval food source.
  • Appearance: Its standout feature, the white stripes popping against black wings, earns the name ‘Zebra.’ The distinctive ‘tails’ on hind wings add to its charm.
  • Size: Quite large, it measures 3-4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies relish nectar from a variety of flowers. Young caterpillars feed exclusively on pawpaw leaves.
  • Reproduction: The female lays greenish eggs on the underside of pawpaw leaves. Caterpillars born from these eggs soon revert to munching on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: It lives for about a month, a typical lifespan for a butterfly.
  • Host Plants: Pawpaw trees are pivotal in their life cycle, providing food for larvae, and a place for adult butterflies to lay eggs.

Seeing a Zebra Swallowtail flutter by is truly an unforgettable sight.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur, also known as the Alfalfa butterfly, is widely encountered in Rhode Island. This butterfly species is renowned for its vibrant color and charm.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically found in open spaces including fields, meadows, lawns, and even roadsides. It favors areas with plenty of sunlight and nectar-rich blossoms.
  • Appearance: Displays a stunning range of hues, from bright yellow to deep orange on the upperside of its wings. The underside presents a fascinating pattern of spots and stripes.
  • Size: Boasts an average wingspan of 1.7 to 2.5 inches (4.3 to 6.4 cm), it’s a sight you can’t miss.
  • Diet: Primarily feeds on nectar from varieties of flowers such as Asters, Milkweeds, and Clover.
  • Reproduction: The female typically lays singular eggs on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: An average of two to three weeks, though certain conditions can extend this period.
  • Host Plants: Alfalfa, White clover, and other related legumes serve as host plants where larvae feed and mature.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail, or Papilio cresphontes, graces the Rhode Island landscape with its distinctive presence.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: It adores subtropical areas and is drawn to large, open gardens where citrus trees flourish.
  • Appearance: This caterpillar couldn’t be more identifiable with its stunning yellow and black stripes, and blue and red eye-like spots on the back wings.
  • Size: As one of the largest of all North American butterflies, its wingspan reaches an impressive 4-6 inches (10-15 cm).
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, it thrives on citrus plants, while the adult butterfly frequently feeds on nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: The females lay their round, cream-colored eggs beneath the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: On average, these striking butterflies enjoy a lifespan of about a month during the summer.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae gravitate towards plants in the citrus family, enhancing their chances of survival by incorporating the toxic compounds from the plants into their bodies as a protective mechanism.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is among the charismatic butterflies that call Rhode Island home.

red-admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: This species is common in woodland habitats and suburban areas with gardens and parks.
  • Appearance: Red Admiral boasts a striking pattern. Its hindwings and forewings are painted in vibrant colors of red, black, and white.
  • Size: Males and females span a wingspan between 2 – 2.5 inches (5 – 6.5 cms) – not too large but quite noticeable.
  • Diet: The Red Admiral butterflies feed primarily on nectar from flowers and decaying fruit.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on top of the host plants, which later become their caterpillar’s food.
  • Lifespan: Like most butterflies, Red Admirals live a brief, ephemeral life, typically just two to three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larvae of this species feed on plants of the nettle family, mainly the stinging nettle.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

The Cabbage White isn’t a native Rhode Island species, but it calls this place home now.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot them enjoying meadows and urban gardens.
  • Appearance: A white, delicate creature with greyish tips and faint black spots on their wings.
  • Size: Small creatures, about 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers, but they also enjoy Brassicaceae plants as larvae.
  • Reproduction: They lay their eggs on the underside of leaves for protection.
  • Lifespan: They live from spring all the way to early fall.
  • Host Plants: They prefer vegetables such as cabbage and kale.

Despite being an immigrant, they have become a crucial part of Rhoda Island’s ecosystem. Enjoy their fluttering performances in your backyard!

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

This butterfly species is one you’ll likely stumble upon while in Rhode Island. It is called the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia).

Seen often in open spaces, they’re not so peculiar to forests, wetlands, and well, Rhode Island.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: They thrive in open fields, gardens, and meadows.
  • Appearance: Their wings are orange with black spots and bear scalloped edges. Undersides have a distinct silver spangle.
  • Size: Adult wingspan tends to range between 1.5-2.8 inches (3.8-7.1cm).
  • Diet: The larvae feed on several plant species, while adults sip nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: They have multiple broods per year, with the female laying eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: On average, their lifecycle spans a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Violets, Passion flower, stonecrop, and moonseed act as host plants, providing a food source for the larvae.

Now, you might be more familiar with the Variegated Fritillary. It’s truly a sight to behold.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper, or ‘Lycaena phlaeas’, is a captivating sight to behold. It is truly cherished in Rhode Island.

American Copper butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically favoring dry, open areas, American Coppers can be spotted in fields, meadows, and other grassy environments.
  • Appearance: Sporting coppery orange wings adorned with black spots, this butterfly makes an attractive sight.
  • Size: It’s a fairly small species, with a wingspan ranging between 0.8-1.3 inch (2-3.3 cm).
  • Diet: Adult Coppers mainly feed on nectar derived from flowers such as dandelions.
  • Reproduction: They reproduce several times a year, with females laying eggs on the underside of leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle is short, usually between 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Curled Dock and sheep sorrel (in the Polygonaceae family) are the primary host plants where females lay their eggs.

From their vibrant color to their unique life cycle, American Coppers are indeed a delight to explore.

Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius)

The Harvester, scientifically known as Feniseca tarquinius, is a unique butterfly species you can spot in Rhode Island.

Harvester, Feniseca tarquinius

Here are some features and facts about this species:

  • Habitat: Harvester butterflies prefer wet, damp areas near streams and ponds.
  • Appearance: They are small with an orange-brown color on the upper side and silver spots on the underside.
  • Size: Adults grow to an average wingspan of about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: Unlike most butterflies which feed on nectar, Harvesters are known to be carnivorous, feeding on woolly aphids.
  • Reproduction: Female Harvesters lay their eggs on woolly aphid colonies, which become the caterpillars’ immediate food source upon hatching.
  • Lifespan: The overall lifespan from egg to the final adult stage tends to be around 1 month.
  • Host Plants: They lay their eggs exclusively on plants infested with woolly aphids.

In spite of their small size, Harvesters play an important role in controlling aphid populations.

Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton)

Meet the Baltimore Checkerspot, an enchanting specimen among the numerous butterfly species found in Rhode Island.

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot this intriguing creature in wet meadows, along streams, and the borders of forests.
  • Appearance: It sports a definitive pattern of orange, yellow, and white spots against a black backdrop, with a wavy border of alternating orange and white.
  • Size: Its wingspan ranges between 1.8 to 2.8 inches (4.5 to 7 cm), creating an impressive sight.
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar from various flowers, while the caterpillars munch on the leaves of Turtlehead plants and False Foxglove.
  • Reproduction: Females lay clusters of eggs on host plants where they hatch into strikingly patterned caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The caterpillar stage lasts about 10 months, with adults living for 2-3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Turtlehead plant, English Plantain, and False Foxglove play host to the Baltimore Checkerspot.

This butterfly boasts a stunning display, reflecting the beauty and diversity of Rhode Island’s butterfly species.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

Meet the American Lady, a butterfly species of striking beauty, scientifically known as Vanessa virginiensis.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is adaptable. It can thrive in different habitats, from meadows to gardens.
  • Appearance: It has orange and black wings, often with white spots. The underside is mottled gray and brown, and looks like dead leaves when folded.
  • Size: It commonly measures 2 – 2.7 inches (5 – 7 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adults feed on floral nectar while the larvae feed on a wide variety of plants.
  • Reproduction: Female can lay hundreds of eggs in her lifespan, usually on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live 2 – 3 weeks, but the final generation of the year can live up to 9 months, overwintering until it can reproduce in the spring.
  • Host Plants: Prefers plants from the Asteraceae family, including Everlasting (Pseudognaphalium) species.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

You must wonder about the Gray Hairstreak, a common butterfly here in Rhode Island. Let us dive into some specifics about it.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: From fields to gardens, you’ll spot this particular species in a variety of environments.
  • Appearance: They have a beautiful uniform gray coloring with a small reddish spot near the tail.
  • Size: They’re quite small, typically half an inch to a full inch (1.3cm-2.5cm).
  • Diet: The adult Gray Hairstreak loves to feast on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs individually on the buds of their host plant.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about one month, while the overall lifecycle from egg to adult can take around two months.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on a wide range of plants, including various crops, shrubs, and trees.

Now, isn’t the Gray Hairstreak an intriguing creature?

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarchs are renowned butterflies known for their striking colors and spectacular migrations.


Here are some key attributes:

  • Habitat: Monarchs are widespread, and despite being native to North America, you can observe them even in cities, farms, meadows, and roadsides in Rhode Island.
  • Appearance: They flaunt vibrant orange wings, outlined in black. The wing veins are black, and white spots border the wing edges.
  • Size: Adult Monarchs have a wingspan of about 3.5 to 4 inches (8.9 to 10.2 cm).
  • Diet: The adults feed on a variety of plant nectars and sometimes sip water from damp spots to take in minerals.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves, the only plant their larvae feed on.
  • Lifespan: Monarchs can live up to 9 months, much longer than other butterfly species.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed plants are essential to Monarch survival as their larvae feed and grow exclusively on these plants.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Street or backyard, the Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) can be found in a variety of habitats in Rhode Island.

Question Mark butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive in damp forests, open woodlands, along streams, and in suburban areas.
  • Appearance: Its uniquely squared wings with a spectrum from warm orange to reddish-brown, have tiny white ‘question mark’ shaped markings, serving as its claim to fame.
  • Size: A wingspan ranging between 5-7.6 cm (2-3 inches) makes it quite easy to spot.
  • Diet: Delectable nectar from rotting fruits and tree sap serve as their prime diet. Occasionally, they might go for insect droppings too!
  • Reproduction: Female Question Marks lay ridged, green eggs individually on host plants.
  • Lifespan: adults typically live for about 1 month.
  • Host plants: The larvae prefer the tasty leaves of nettles, elms, and hackberry trees.

Artistic, adaptable, yet elusive, the Question Mark butterfly is a remarkable Rhode Island resident.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

Bring your sight to the Red-spotted Purple, a butterfly belonging to the family Nymphalidae. Despite its regal title, this creature showcases a palette of colors.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot them in deciduous woodlands, forest edges, even in your suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: Sporting a stunning blue or blue-green iridescence, they bear stark white bands and red spots on their forewings.
  • Size: They flaunt a wingspan ranging from 2.7 to 3.5 inches (6.8 to 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Adults enjoy sipping nectar from common roadside flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly, often on host plants’ tips.
  • Lifespan: They live a fleeting life, approximately from May through November.
  • Host Plants: Young caterpillars find solace on leaves of cherries, poplars, hawthorns among others.

Indeed, the Red-spotted Purple showcases nature’s flair for beauty and diversity.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Great Spangled Fritillary is remarkable with orange and black patterns adding depth to your butterfly identification knowledge.

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly favors moist meadows and woodlands in Rhode Island.
  • Appearance: It’s characterized by its orange wings with black spots and a silver pattern displayed on the underside of its hind wings.
  • Size: A slightly larger butterfly, its wingspan ranges from 2.5 to 4 inches (6.3 to 10.1 cm).
  • Diet: Adults siphon nectar from flowers, whereas caterpillars feed on violets.
  • Reproduction: After mating, a female lays her eggs on or nearby the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults have a short lifespan of about a month, while the entire life cycle takes a year.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants for their caterpillars are violets, particularly those found in moist, grassy fields.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is an easily recognizable butterfly species, thanks to its striking coloration.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Forests, meadows and garden areas that are close to water bodies are prime spots for these insects.
  • Appearance: Adults flaunt dark blackish-brown wings, accented by vibrant blue or green scales on the hind wings. Their underside has similar scales, along with yellow spots bordering each wing.
  • Size: They have a large wingspan, ranging from 3.1 to 4.3 inches (8.0 to 11.0 cm), making them one of the bigger species you’ll see.
  • Diet: They mainly sip nectar from a variety of flowers, including honeysuckles, azaleas, and milkweed among others.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single green eggs on host plants. The caterpillars which emerge from these eggs have a snake-like appearance, designed to ward off predators.
  • Lifespan: This species has a lifespan of about a month in the wild. During this short time, they experience a complete metamorphosis.
  • Host Plants: As their name suggests, their preferred host plants are spicebush and sassafras trees, although they sometimes use other plants in the Lauraceae family.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly, scientific name ‘Limenitis archippus’, is an interesting inhabitant of Rhode Island.


Let’s delve into some specifics about this species:

  • Habitat: This species is quite happy in marshy areas and fields near water bodies, where it can lay eggs on its favorite host plants.
  • Appearance: The Viceroy is famous for mimicking the Monarch butterfly, with tawny orange wings crisscrossed by black lines and white spots.
  • Size: Usually, they reach a wingspan of 2.75 to 3 inches (7 to 7.6 cm), which is slightly smaller than their Monarch counterparts.
  • Diet: As larvae, they feed on the leaves of trees in the willow family, while adults sip nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay single green eggs on the underside of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan ranges from 2 to 6 weeks for summer broods, while those that emerge in the fall can live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: These butterflies prefer trees and shrubs in the willow family (Salicaceae), especially poplars and cottonwoods.

Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)

The Coral Hairstreak is an interesting North American butterfly species, but don’t be disturbed if you haven’t spotted one, as they tend to blend in well with their surroundings.

Coral Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: They prefer scrubs, open woodlands, and fields.
  • Appearance: The Coral Hairstreaks are grey-brown, without any tails. Their hindwings bear a line of small orange spots rimmed with black and white.
  • Size: This species is relatively small, with a wingspan of 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies consume nectar from a range of flowers, including milkweed and wild cherry.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs on the underside of host plant leaves. The caterpillar is a light olive-green with white stripes on the sides.
  • Lifespan: Their adult life lasts two weeks on average.
  • Host Plants: Their larvae enjoy feeding on the leaves of wild cherry, hawthorns, and American basswood.

Next time you wander around Rhode Island’s natural parks and reserves, keep an eye open for the modest Coral Hairstreak.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady, scientific name Vanessa cardui, is a phenomenal butterfly species that graces Rhode Island.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll spot the Painted Lady in many different habitats, including open meadows, forests, and city parks.
  • Appearance: This butterfly sports an extravagant color pattern, with orange wings patterned black and white at the edges.
  • Size: Their wingspan can stretch between 2 and 2.9 inches or 5.1 to 7.3 cm wide, a mid-sized butterfly in Rhode Island.
  • Diet: Adult Painted Ladies feed on nectar from various wildflowers, while caterpillars prefer thistles.
  • Reproduction: These butterflies lay their eggs on thistles and other host plants, from which caterpillars will later emerge.
  • Lifespan: The Painted Lady has a short lifespan, living only from two to four weeks.
  • Host Plants: The thistle is the main host plant for Painted Ladies but they can also use hollyhock and mallow plants.

Pay a visit to your local wildflower field and you just might spot the striking Painted Lady butterfly.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

This butterfly is one of the most recognizable in Rhode Island.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Here are some notable characteristics:

  • Habitat: Prefers forest edges, woodlands, fields, and rivers.
  • Appearance: Characterized by its black ‘tiger stripes’ on a yellow background, with a tail resembling a swallow’s.
  • Size: With a wingspan of 3-6 inches (7.6-15.2cm), it’s one of the larger species.
  • Diet: The caterpillar feeds on leaves of broad-leaf trees, while adults favor nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs singly on the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult butterflies live around 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Favorites include wild cherry, tulip tree, birch, ash, and more.

With its stunning looks and majestic flight, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a joy to observe. Whether in your backyard or on a nature walk, keep an eye out for this delightful species.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The Clouded Sulphur butterfly is a sight to behold. Widespread across Rhode Island, and indeed, across most of North America, it’s a species you’re likely to come across if you are a butterfly enthusiast.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Often found in meadows, fields, and along roadsides.
  • Appearance: Primarily yellow with a darker edge around its wings, which may be tinted with orange.
  • Size: It’s not a large butterfly, its wingspan typically measuring around 1.5 – 2.25 inches (38 – 57 mm).
  • Diet: Adult Clouded Sulphurs feed on flower nectar, while their caterpillars eat leguminous plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on host plants’ leaves, from where their caterpillars, upon hatching, get an easy meal.
  • Lifespan: It has a short lifespan, living up to 2 weeks as an adult.
  • Host Plants: It prefers plants like white clover and alfalfa. The caterpillar will also feed on other legume species.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, a butterfly species known for its distinguished visual appeal, is named aptly due to the resembles of its wings to a traditional cloak worn during periods of mourning.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll often spot these butterflies in forests and woodlands. They’re also common in parks.
  • Appearance: Recognizable by their dark brown wings with a yellow edge and bright blue spots, it’s almost as if they’re mourning.
  • Size: An adult butterfly measures around 2.5 to 4 inches (6.35 to 10.16 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Typically, they feed on tree sap, and occasionally, fruit.
  • Reproduction: The butterfly reproduces once a year, laying eggs in groups on a tree trunk or branch.
  • Lifespan: Possessing an unusually long lifespan, these butterflies can live up to 12 months.
  • Host Plants: Willow, elm, and aspen serve as some of their preferred host plants, providing necessary nutrients to the hatching caterpillars.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

As you explore the flora and fauna of Rhode Island, the Common Buckeye might catch your eye.

Common Buckeye butterfly

Here’s a handful of facts about this species:

  • Habitat: This butterfly can be found in open, sunny locals with low vegetation and some bare ground.
  • Appearance: Boasting intricate patterns of eye spots, their wings may sometimes appear to blink when fluttering.
  • Size: Sporting a wingspan that ranges from 1.5 to 2.75 inches (3.8 to 7 cm), it’s reasonably sized for a butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults enjoy lapping nectar from various flowers. On the other hand, caterpillars feed off plantain leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females will lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: They typically can live 2 to 4 weeks in their adult stage.
  • Host Plants: Plantain, Snapdragon, and False Foxglove are some host plants of this bug.

Reach out to learn more about these fascinating inhabitants of Rhode Island!

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

An exceptional type of butterfly worth noting is the Pipevine Swallowtail. Its scientific name is Battus philenor.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You can easily spot them in moist woodlands, fields, and sometimes even your backyard.
  • Appearance: The upper side of the wings is black with an iridescent blue or green sheen, varying with the angle of the light. On the other hand, females show a less vibrant color.
  • Size: Their size often falls between 7cm (2.75 inches) and 9cm (3.5 inches).
  • Diet: Adult Pipevine Swallowtails feed on nectar from a wide variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaves, stems, and flower buds of the host plant.
  • Lifespan: They live for approximately one month, yet they only survive for a week or two in their adult stage.
  • Host Plants: They tend to favor the pipevine plant hence the name pipevine swallowtail.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a prevalent butterfly species that you’ll easily spot in Rhode Island.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

Check out below to learn more details about it:

  • Habitat: Often found in open areas, meadows, or even your backyard garden.
  • Appearance: Boasts a striking blue to silver-blue hue on upper wing surfaces.
  • Size: A wing span varying between 18 and 29 mm (0.7 to 1.15 inch). Fairly small, isn’t it?
  • Diet: Juveniles feast on legumes while adults prefer flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs singly on flower buds of host plants in spring.
  • Lifespan: The overall lifespan is short, varying from just one-two weeks.
  • Host Plants: Leguminous plants are its primary host, including multiple species of clovers and vetches.

Keep your eyes peeled for these dynamic insects on your next outdoor foray!


I hope you enjoyed our exploration of the 30 butterfly species inhabiting Rhode Island.

Each one, with their unique colors, patterns, and behaviors, adds a special touch to the state’s rich biodiversity.

I’m curious to know which butterfly species captivated you most, so feel free to drop a comment below sharing your favorite!

Butterflies   Updated: August 14, 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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