30 Butterfly Species in Tennessee

Tennessee is home to a diverse and colorful butterfly population. With 30 species inhabiting its parks, gardens, and forests, residents and visitors alike can enjoy the beauty and wonder of these delicate insects.

From the majestic Eastern Tiger Swallowtail to the petite Eastern Tailed-Blue, each species offers a unique display of patterns, colors, and behaviors.

In this article, we will explore the 30 butterfly species found in Tennessee, providing insights into their appearance, habitat, and migratory patterns.

Let’s dive in!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is one of the most common butterflies in Tennessee and is easily identifiable due to its bright yellow and black markings.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands, meadows, gardens, and parks.
  • Appearance: Bright yellow and black striped wings, with blue and orange markings near the tail.
  • Size: 3.5-6 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and verbena.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as tulip trees, willow trees, and citrus trees.
  • Lifespan: 6-14 days.
  • Host Plants: Tulip trees, willow trees, and citrus trees.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a common sight in Tennessee during the summer months. Males are typically yellow with black stripes, while females can be either yellow or black with blue or orange markings near the tail.

They can be found in a variety of habitats, from woodlands and meadows to gardens and parks. They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and verbena.

Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as tulip trees, willow trees, and citrus trees. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 6-14 days.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail is a medium-sized butterfly that is commonly found throughout Tennessee.

black swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Meadows, gardens, fields, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Black wings with yellow markings, and blue markings near the tail.
  • Size: 2.5-4 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and clover.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as parsley, carrots, and dill.
  • Lifespan: 6-14 days.
  • Host Plants: Parsley, carrots, and dill.

The Black Swallowtail is a medium-sized butterfly with black wings and yellow markings. Males and females have the same wing pattern, but females are generally larger than males.

They are commonly found in meadows, gardens, fields, and roadsides, where they feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and clover.

Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as parsley, carrots, and dill. The Black Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 6-14 days.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly characterized by its iridescent blue and black wings.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Iridescent blue-black wings with white and orange spots.
  • Size: 2.7-4.5 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers, specifically those in the Pipevine family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as Pipevine plants.
  • Lifespan: 7-10 days.
  • Host Plants: Pipevine plants.

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a stunning butterfly that can be found in woodlands, meadows, and gardens throughout Tennessee.

Males and females have the same wing pattern, but males are larger than females. They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers, specifically those in the Pipevine family. Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as Pipevine plants.

The Pipevine Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 7-10 days. In addition to its stunning appearance, this butterfly plays an important ecological role by helping to pollinate plants in its habitat.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail is a striking butterfly that is easily identifiable by its unique black and white striped wings.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Black and white striped wings with long tails.
  • Size: 2.5-3 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and verbena.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as pawpaw trees.
  • Lifespan: 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Pawpaw trees.

The Zebra Swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly that can be found in woodlands, fields, and gardens throughout Tennessee. Males and females have the same wing pattern, but males have longer tails. They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and verbena.

Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as pawpaw trees. The Zebra Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 1-2 weeks. In addition to its unique appearance, this butterfly plays an important ecological role by helping to pollinate plants in its habitat.

The Zebra Swallowtail is considered an important cultural symbol in some Native American tribes and is often featured in art and folklore.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of the most interesting butterfly species found in Tennessee due to its unique coloration and pattern.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Black wings with blue-green markings, and a row of orange spots near the edge of the wings.
  • Size: 2.75-4 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and lantana.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as spicebush, sassafras, and tulip poplar trees.
  • Lifespan: 6-14 days.
  • Host Plants: Spicebush, sassafras, and tulip poplar trees.

The Spicebush Swallowtail is a unique butterfly found in Tennessee that can be easily identified by its black wings with blue-green markings. Males and females have the same wing pattern, but females have more blue-green markings on their wings.

They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and lantana. Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as spicebush, sassafras, and tulip poplar trees. The Spicebush Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 6-14 days.

In addition to its unique appearance, this butterfly plays an important ecological role by helping to pollinate plants in its habitat.

The Spicebush Swallowtail is considered an important cultural symbol in some Native American tribes and is often featured in art and folklore.

Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes asterius)

The Eastern Black Swallowtail is a beautiful butterfly found in Tennessee that is known for its distinctive black wings with yellow markings.

Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Meadows, fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Black wings with yellow markings, and a row of blue markings near the tail.
  • Size: 2.75-4 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and coneflowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as parsley, dill, and fennel.
  • Lifespan: 6-14 days.
  • Host Plants: Parsley, dill, and fennel.

The Eastern Black Swallowtail is a widespread butterfly species found in meadows, fields, gardens, and roadsides throughout Tennessee.

Males and females have the same wing pattern, but females are generally larger than males. They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and coneflowers.

Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as parsley, dill, and fennel. The Eastern Black Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 6-14 days. In addition to its beautiful appearance, this butterfly plays an important ecological role by helping to pollinate plants in its habitat.

The Eastern Black Swallowtail is a favorite of butterfly enthusiasts due to its bright yellow markings that stand out against the black wings.

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is one of the largest butterfly species found in Tennessee, characterized by its striking yellow and black coloration.giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands, fields, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Yellow wings with black markings, and a row of yellow spots near the edge of the wings.
  • Size: 4-6 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and verbena.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as citrus trees and prickly ash.
  • Lifespan: 7-14 days.
  • Host Plants: Citrus trees and prickly ash.

The Giant Swallowtail is a spectacular butterfly found in Tennessee that can reach up to 6 inches in wingspan. This species is characterized by its yellow wings with black markings and a row of yellow spots near the edge of the wings. Males and females have the same wing pattern, but females are larger than males.

They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and verbena. Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as citrus trees and prickly ash.

The Giant Swallowtail has a relatively short lifespan of 7-14 days. In addition to its impressive size and striking appearance, this butterfly plays an important ecological role by helping to pollinate plants in its habitat.

The Giant Swallowtail is a favorite of butterfly enthusiasts due to its large size and beautiful coloration.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

The Monarch Butterfly is one of the most well-known butterfly species in the world and is admired for its beautiful orange and black wings.

Monarch Butterfly

  • Habitat: Meadows, fields, gardens, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Orange wings with black veins and borders, and white spots along the edges.
  • Size: 3-4 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and sunflowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as milkweed.
  • Lifespan: 2-6 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed.

The Monarch Butterfly is a well-known butterfly species found in meadows, fields, gardens, and roadsides throughout Tennessee. Males and females have the same wing pattern, but males have a slightly larger black scent gland on their hind wings.

They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and sunflowers. Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as milkweed.

The Monarch Butterfly has a relatively short lifespan of 2-6 weeks. This butterfly is renowned for its annual migration to Mexico in the fall, where they spend the winter months before returning to North America in the spring.

The Monarch Butterfly is an important ecological indicator species, and its population decline is a cause for concern. Many efforts are currently underway to conserve this iconic butterfly and its vital habitat.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)

The Red-spotted Purple is a beautiful and unusual butterfly found in Tennessee that is often mistaken for a species of bird.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: Woodlands and forest clearings.
  • Appearance: Dark blue-black wings with red spots on the undersides of the hind wings.
  • Size: 2.5-4 inches.
  • Diet: Nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and purple coneflowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as cherry and willow trees.
  • Lifespan: 6-14 days.
  • Host Plants: Cherry and willow trees.

The Red-spotted Purple is a unique butterfly found in the woodlands and forest clearings of Tennessee. This butterfly is often mistaken for a bird due to its large size and blue-black coloration. Males and females have the same wing pattern.

They feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweed, thistle, and purple coneflowers. Females lay eggs on leaves of host plants such as cherry and willow trees. The Red-spotted Purple has a relatively short lifespan of 6-14 days.

In addition to its striking appearance, this butterfly plays an important ecological role by helping to pollinate plants in its habitat. Despite its unusual appearance, the Red-spotted Purple is a popular sight among butterfly enthusiasts who appreciate its unique beauty.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy is often confused for the Monarch Butterfly due to their similar appearance, but it can be easily distinguished by the diagonal black stripe on its hind wings, which Monarchs lack.

Viceroy butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in wetlands and along the edges of forests.
  • Appearance: Resembles the Monarch Butterfly with bright orange wings and black veins. However, Viceroys have a diagonal black stripe that runs across the hind wings, while Monarchs do not.
  • Size: Wingspan of 2.5 to 3.5 inches (6.4 to 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Feed on the nectar of flowers, particularly those found in wetland habitats.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of willow trees.
  • Lifespan: Adults lifespan is around 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on the leaves of willow, poplar, and aspen trees.

They are typically found in wetlands and along the edges of forests in Tennessee and have a wingspan of 2.5 to 3.5 inches.

Viceroys feed on nectar from flowers, especially those in wetland habitats, and females lay eggs on the leaves of willow trees. The lifecycle of a Viceroy adult is typically one to two weeks, while the larvae feed on the leaves of willow, poplar, and aspen trees.

In addition to being a beautiful sight to behold, Viceroys have a unique defense mechanism against predators.

By resembling Monarchs, which have a bitter tasting and toxic chemical in their bodies, Viceroys are able to deter predators from attacking. Seeing a Viceroy may require a closer look, but they are truly a remarkable butterfly species with fascinating adaptations.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is a butterfly species found in open fields, meadows, and gardens in Tennessee.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in open fields, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: Has a light brown coloring with black and white spots on the wings, with a distinctive orange-brown and black pattern on the underwing.
  • Size: Wingspan of 2 to 2.75 inches (5 to 7 cm).
  • Diet: Feed on the nectar of various flowers, particularly thistles and asters.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on thistle and hollyhock plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults lifespan is around 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on thistle, hollyhock, and mallow plants.

They have a light brown coloring with black and white spots on their wings, with a distinctive orange-brown and black pattern on the underwing. With a wingspan of 2 to 2.75 inches, they are a relatively small butterfly species.

Painted Ladies feed on the nectar of various flowers, particularly thistles and asters. Females lay eggs on thistle and hollyhock plants, while the larvae feed on these plants as well as on mallow plants. The lifecycle of a Painted Lady adult is around two weeks.

Though the Painted Lady is widespread and common in Tennessee, it is also known for its long-distance migration.

They have been known to overwinter in the southern United States and Mexico before migrating northward in the summer.

Seeing a group of Painted Ladies fluttering through a field is a stunning sight, and they are a butterfly species that should not be missed.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady is a butterfly species found in open fields, meadows, and woodlands in Tennessee.

American Painted Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in open fields, meadows, and woodlands.
  • Appearance: Has a bright orange upperwing with black and white spots, and the underwing is light brown with eye-catching blue, orange, and black spots, resembling eyes.
  • Size: Wingspan of 2.25 to 2.8 inches (5.7 to 7.1 cm).
  • Diet: Feed on the nectar of flowers, especially thistles and shrubs.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults lifespan is around 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on the leaves of plants such as asters, violets, and sunflowers.

With a bright orange upperwing dotted with black and white spots and underwings featuring eye-catching blue, orange, and black spots that resemble eyes, they are a beautiful and interesting species to observe.

With a wingspan of 2.25 to 2.8 inches, they are a relatively small butterfly species.

American Ladies feed on the nectar of flowers, especially thistles and shrubs. Females lay eggs on the leaves of plants such as asters, violets, and sunflowers, while larvae feed on these same plants.

The lifecycle of an adult American Lady is around one to two weeks.

One interesting fact about American Ladies is that they are sometimes confused with the Painted Lady butterfly due to their similar appearance.

However, their underwings have a distinct blue coloring that sets them apart. Seeing an American Lady is a treat for any nature enthusiast, and it is worth making an effort to spot this beautiful butterfly species in Tennessee.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye is a butterfly species that can be found in open fields, meadows, and along roadsides in Tennessee.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in open fields, meadows, and along roadsides.
  • Appearance: Has distinctive large eyespots on its wings, with a brown, black and white coloring.
  • Size: Wingspan of 1.75 to 2.75 inches (4.4 to 7 cm).
  • Diet: Feed on a variety of nectar-producing plants, especially those in the sunflower family.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on several host plants, including snapdragons and plantains.
  • Lifespan: Adults lifespan is around 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on several host plants, including snapdragons and plantains.

They have distinctive large eyespots on their wings, with a brown, black, and white coloring. With a wingspan of 1.75 to 2.75 inches, they are a relatively small butterfly species.

Common Buckeyes feed on a variety of nectar-producing plants, especially those in the sunflower family. Females lay eggs on several host plants, including snapdragons and plantains.

Larvae feed on these same plants, and the lifecycle of an adult Common Buckeye butterfly is around two to three weeks.

One fun fact about Common Buckeyes is that they frequently engage in a behavior known as puddling, where they congregate around puddles or wet ground to drink water and absorb minerals.

This can be a great opportunity for photographers to capture stunning images of these beautiful butterflies.

Seeing a Common Buckeye is a treat for any nature enthusiast, and they are a butterfly species that should not be missed when exploring the great outdoors of Tennessee.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

The Gulf Fritillary is a butterfly species that can be found in open fields and gardens with abundant flowering plants in Tennessee.

gulf fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in open fields and gardens with abundant flowering plants.
  • Appearance: Has a bright orange upperwing with black markings and silver spots, with the underwing being brown with various markings.
  • Size: Wingspan of 2.75 to 3.5 inches (7 to 8.9 cm).
  • Diet: Feed primarily on nectar-producing flowers such as lantanas and passionflowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants, usually passionflowers.
  • Lifespan: Adults lifespan is around 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on passionflowers.

With a bright orange upperwing adorned with black markings and silver spots, and brown underwings with various markings, they are a beautiful and colorful species to observe. They have a wingspan of 2.75 to 3.5 inches.

Unlike many other butterfly species, Gulf Fritillaries feed primarily on nectar-producing flowers such as lantanas and passionflowers.

Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants, usually passionflowers. Larvae feed on these same plants, and the lifecycle of an adult Gulf Fritillary butterfly is around two to three weeks.

The Gulf Fritillary is a species that is often sought after by butterfly gardeners due to their striking colors and long flight times. They are also important pollinators, which makes them a valuable addition to any garden or habitat.

Seeing a Gulf Fritillary in Tennessee is a special treat, and these butterflies are certainly worth keeping an eye out for when exploring the great outdoors.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

The Variegated Fritillary is a butterfly species that can be found in open fields and meadows with patches of violets and legumes in Tennessee.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in open fields and meadows with patches of violets and legumes.
  • Appearance: Has a bright orange upperwing with black markings and silver spots, and black spots on the underside of the hindwings.
  • Size: Wingspan of 1.75 to 2.5 inches (4.4 to 6.4 cm).
  • Diet: Feed on the nectar of flowers, particularly those in the aster and sunflower families.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants, usually violets or legumes.
  • Lifespan: Adults lifespan is around 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Larvae feed on the leaves of violets and legumes.

With a bright orange upperwing adorned with black markings and silver spots, and black spots on the underside of the hindwings, they are a beautiful and colorful species to observe. They have a wingspan of 1.75 to 2.5 inches.

Variegated Fritillaries feed on the nectar of flowers, particularly those in the aster and sunflower families. Females lay eggs on the leaves of host plants, usually violets or legumes.

Larvae feed on these same plants, and the lifecycle of an adult Variegated Fritillary butterfly is around two to three weeks.

One interesting fact about Variegated Fritillaries is that they are able to overwinter as adults, which is a rare trait for butterfly species. They do this by going into a state of hibernation during the colder months, and then re-emerging in the spring to mate and lay eggs.

Seeing a Variegated Fritillary in Tennessee is a special treat, and they are certainly worth keeping an eye out for when exploring the great outdoors.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral is a common butterfly species that can be found year-round in Tennessee.

red-admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: Red Admirals prefer habitats with open fields and wooded areas, making them common in urban and suburban settings.
  • Appearance: With bold and vibrant red, black and white wings, Red Admirals can be strikingly beautiful. They have black wings that are accented by white patches near the tips, as well as red stripes on their wings.
  • Size: Red Admirals are typically a medium-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3 inches.
  • Diet: Red Admirals feed on flower nectar, sap, fallen fruit and tree sap. They also sometimes feed on bird droppings.
  • Reproduction: Red Admirals reproduce through mating. Females lay eggs on nettles and can lay up to 100 eggs at a time.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan of a Red Admiral butterfly is around 10-14 days. However, if the temperature is cooler, it may extend the lifespan to 6 to 7 months.
  • Host Plants: The Red Admiral caterpillar feeds on various plants, but their main host plant is stinging nettles.

The Red Admiral butterfly is a beautiful and fascinating species that can be found in Tennessee year-round, making it a common and beloved sight for nature lovers.

Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)

The Peacock Butterfly is a stunning and unique butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee during the summer months.

Peacock Butterfly

  • Habitat: Peacock Butterflies are often found in woodland and grassland habitats, but they are also known to live in parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: With its distinctively patterned wings, the Peacock Butterfly is one of the most recognizable butterfly species in Tennessee. Its wings are dark brown with large, iridescent blue, purple, and green spots.
  • Size: Peacock Butterflies are a medium to large-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches.
  • Diet: Peacock Butterflies feed on a variety of flowers and plants, including thistles and nettles.
  • Reproduction: Peacock Butterflies mate in the summer months, usually in June or July. Females lay their eggs on the underside of nettle leaves.
  • Lifespan: The Peacock Butterfly typically lives for about a year, with most of that time spent in the larva stage. As adults, they only live for a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Peacock Butterfly mainly feed on stinging nettles, but they may also feed on other plants such as hops and currants.

The Peacock Butterfly is a beautiful and fascinating butterfly species that is a true delight to see in the summertime in Tennessee’s woodlands and grasslands.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak is a unique and beautiful butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee during the spring and fall months.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

Habitat

Mourning Cloaks prefer woodland habitats, but they can also be found in suburban areas, parks, and gardens.

  • Appearance: The Mourning Cloak is a dark-colored butterfly species, with a distinctively jagged edge to its wings. The wings are mostly black, with a row of iridescent blue spots along the edge and a yellow border.
  • Size: Mourning Cloaks are a medium-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches.
  • Diet: Mourning Cloaks feed on tree sap, rotting fruit, and sometimes nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Mourning Cloaks mate in the early spring, usually around February or March. Females lay their eggs on the leaves of various types of trees, including willow, elm, and cottonwood.
  • Lifespan: Mourning Cloaks are one of the longest-living butterfly species, with an average lifespan of up to 11 months.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Mourning Cloak feed on the leaves of various types of trees, including willow, elm, and cottonwood.

The Mourning Cloak is a fascinating and beautiful butterfly species that is a joy to see in the spring and fall months in Tennessee’s woodlands and suburban areas.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor is a unique and interesting butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee during the summer months.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Hackberry Emperors prefer wooded areas and forest edges, but they can also be found in suburban areas and parks.
  • Appearance: The Hackberry Emperor has a distinctively dark brown color with lighter colored spots on its wings. There is also a wide orange band running through the middle of the wings and an orange spot near the tip.
  • Size: Hackberry Emperors are a medium-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3 inches.
  • Diet: Hackberry Emperors feed on the sap of various trees, including hackberry, elm, and oak.
  • Reproduction: Hackberry Emperors lay their eggs on the leaves of hackberry trees. Females lay one egg at a time, and the eggs hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: The Hackberry Emperor has a relatively short lifespan, with most living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Hackberry Emperor mainly feed on hackberry leaves, but they may also feed on the leaves of other trees such as elm and oak.

The Hackberry Emperor is a unique and fascinating butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee’s wooded areas and suburban areas during the summer months.

Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)

The Tawny Emperor is a beautiful and unique butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee during the summer months.

Tawny Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: Tawny Emperors prefer wooded areas, but they can also be found in suburban areas and parks.
  • Appearance: The Tawny Emperor has a distinctively brown wingspan with white spots on the wings. The underside of the wings is a pale brown color with dark brown spots.
  • Size: Tawny Emperors are a medium-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3 inches.
  • Diet: Tawny Emperors feed on the sap of various trees, including oak, hickory, and elm.
  • Reproduction: Tawny Emperors lay their eggs on the leaves of various plants, including oak, walnut, and basswood. Females lay one egg at a time, and the eggs hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: The Tawny Emperor has a relatively short lifespan, with most living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Tawny Emperor mainly feed on the leaves of various trees, including oak, walnut, and basswood.

The Tawny Emperor is a unique and fascinating butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee’s wooded areas and suburban areas during the summer months.

American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)

The American Snout is a distinctive and interesting butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee during the summer months.

American Snout butterfly

  • Habitat: American Snouts prefer wooded areas and forest edges, but they can also be found in suburban areas and parks.
  • Appearance: The American Snout has a distinctively long and thin snout-like appearance. The wings are a mottled brown and rusty orange color with a white band near the tip of the wings.
  • Size: American Snouts are a medium to large-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 inches.
  • Diet: American Snouts mainly feed on the nectar of flowers such as lantana, goldenrod, and thistles.
  • Reproduction: American Snouts lay their eggs on hackberry trees. Females lay one egg at a time, and the eggs hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: The American Snout has a relatively short lifespan, with most living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the American Snout mainly feed on the leaves of hackberry trees.

The American Snout is a unique and interesting butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee’s wooded areas and suburban areas during the summer months.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is a common and beloved butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee throughout the summer months.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: Silver-spotted Skippers prefer open areas such as fields, meadows, and parks, but they can also be found in woodland edges.
  • Appearance: The Silver-spotted Skipper has a mottled brown color on the upper wings with a white stripe across the wings. The underside of the wings is a lighter brown color with a distinct silver or metallic spot.
  • Size: Silver-spotted Skippers are a medium to large-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 2.5 to 3 inches.
  • Diet: Silver-spotted Skippers mainly feed on flower nectar, particularly from plants such as thistle and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Female Silver-spotted Skippers lay their eggs on the leaves of various types of woodland trees and shrubs. The eggs hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of the Silver-spotted Skipper is relatively short, with most living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Silver-spotted Skipper mainly feed on the leaves of various types of woodland trees and shrubs.

The Silver-spotted Skipper is a common and beloved butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee’s fields, meadows, and woodland edges throughout the summer months.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The Clouded Sulphur is a bright and colorful butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee during the spring and summer months.

Clouded Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Clouded Sulphurs prefer open areas such as fields, meadows, and parks, but they can also be found in woodland edges.
  • Appearance: The Clouded Sulphur has a bright yellow color with a delicate, cloud-like pattern of lighter color on the wings. Females have a slightly lighter color than males.
  • Size: Clouded Sulphurs are a small to medium-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
  • Diet: Clouded Sulphurs mainly feed on flower nectar from plants such as clover, thistle, and alfalfa.
  • Reproduction: Female Clouded Sulphurs lay their eggs on the flowers and leaves of plants in the pea family. The eggs hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of the Clouded Sulphur is relatively short, with most living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Clouded Sulphur mainly feed on the leaves of plants in the pea family, including clover, alfalfa, and other legumes.

The Clouded Sulphur is a bright and cheerful butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee’s fields, meadows, and woodland edges during the spring and summer months.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur is a colorful and widespread butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee throughout the summer months.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Orange Sulphurs prefer open areas such as fields, meadows, and gardens, but they can also be found in wooded areas.
  • Appearance: The Orange Sulphur has a bright orange color on the upper wings with a black border, and the lower wings are a lighter yellow color. The wings also have a small black spot near the tip.
  • Size: Orange Sulphurs are a small to medium-sized butterfly species, with a wingspan ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 inches.
  • Diet: Orange Sulphurs mainly feed on flower nectar from plants such as thistle, clover, and alfalfa.
  • Reproduction: Females Orange Sulphurs lay their eggs on the leaves of various plants such as alfalfa, beans, and clover. The eggs hatch in about a week.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of the Orange Sulphur is relatively short, with most living for only a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars of the Orange Sulphur mainly feed on the leaves of plants in the pea family, including alfalfa, clover, and beans.

The Orange Sulphur is a colorful and widespread butterfly species that can be found in Tennessee’s fields, meadows, and gardens throughout the summer months.

Little Yellow (Pyrisitia lisa)

The Little Yellow butterfly is native to the southern United States, including Tennessee.

Little Yellow butterfly

  • Habitat: Little Yellow butterflies can be found in open areas such as fields, meadows, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The upper wings are bright yellow with black margins and the underwings are pale yellow with small black spots near the margin. The males have a slightly brighter coloration than females.
  • Size: Little Yellow butterflies have a wingspan of about 1-1.5 inches.
  • Diet: Little Yellow butterflies feed on nectar from various flowers such as yarrow and clovers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly on the host plants. Caterpillars feed on leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of Little Yellow butterflies is typically 2-3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Host plants for Little Yellow butterflies include members of the pea and legume family such as alfalfa, clover, and beans.

Little Yellow (Pyrisitia lisa) butterflies are known for their bright yellow and black wing pattern, and can be found in open areas like fields and meadows in Tennessee.

They feed on nectar from various flowers and their host plants are members of the pea and legume family. The lifespan of these butterflies is generally 2-3 weeks.

Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

The Sleepy Orange butterfly is common in the southern United States, including Tennessee.

Sleepy Orange butterfly

  • Habitat: Sleepy Oranges can be found in a variety of open areas such as fields, meadows, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The upper wings of the butterfly are orange with black margins and veins, while the underwings are pale yellow with some black spots. The males have more distinct black margins and veins than females.
  • Size: Sleepy Oranges have a wingspan of about 1.5-2 inches.
  • Diet: The butterfly feeds primarily on tree sap, rotting fruits, and nectar from flowers such as thistles, butterfly bushes, and clovers.
  • Reproduction: Female Sleepy Orange butterflies lay single eggs onto host plants in the Fabaceae and Fagaceae families such as clovers and oaks. Caterpillars feed on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of Sleepy Oranges is usually 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants:¬†Partridge pea, coffee senna, casia, wild sennas, clover

In summary, Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe) butterflies have orange and black wing patterns, and can be found in a variety of open areas like fields and meadows in Tennessee.

They feed on tree sap, rotting fruits, and nectar from several flowers. The lifespan of Sleepy Oranges is generally 1-2 weeks, and their host plants are from the Fabaceae and Fagaceae families.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

The Cloudless Sulphur butterfly is a common sight throughout much of the eastern United States, including Tennessee.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: Cloudless Sulphurs are often found near forest edges, fields, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: The upper wings of the butterfly are bright yellow with no markings, while the underwings are yellow with a faint greenish tint. Males tend to have brighter and more vibrant yellow coloration than females.
  • Size: Cloudless Sulphurs have a wingspan of about 2.5-3.5 inches.
  • Diet: The butterfly feeds on nectar from various flowers such as Lantana and zinnias. The caterpillars primarily feed on leaves of Cassia and Senna plants.
  • Reproduction: Female Cloudless Sulphur butterflies lay individual eggs onto host plants. Caterpillars feed on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of Cloudless Sulphurs is around 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Partridge pea, coffeeweed, common sensitive plant.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) butterflies are bright yellow, without markings, and have a wingspan of about 2.5-3.5 inches.

They can be found in a variety of habitats such as forest edges, fields, and meadows in Tennessee.

Their primary food sources are nectar from flowers such as Lantana and zinnias, and their host plants are the leaves of Cassia and Senna. The lifespan of Cloudless Sulphurs is usually 1-2 weeks.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

The Pearl Crescent butterfly is widespread and can be found throughout much of North America, including Tennessee.

Pearl Crescent butterfly

  • Habitat: Pearl Crescents are found in open areas such as fields, meadows, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The upper wings of the butterfly are predominantly orange with black markings arranged in rows, while the underwings have a pearl-grey crescent shape with black spots. Males and females have similar coloration.
  • Size: Pearl Crescents have a wingspan of about 1.25-1.75 inches.
  • Diet: The butterfly feeds on nectar from various flowers such as asters, goldenrods, and daisies.
  • Reproduction: Female Pearl Crescent butterflies lay eggs singly on host plants, which consist of several species in the aster family. Caterpillars feed on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of Pearl Crescents is typically 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Asters.

The Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly can be found throughout North America, including Tennessee.

They are commonly found in open areas like fields and meadows and are known for their orange and black wing pattern with a pearl-grey crescent on the underwings.

Their host plants are several species in the aster family. The lifespan of Pearl Crescents is generally 1-2 weeks, and they feed on nectar from flowers such as asters, goldenrods, and daisies.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

The Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly is a common and widespread species found throughout much of North America, including Tennessee.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: Eastern Tailed-Blues are commonly found in open areas such as fields, meadows, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: The upper wings of the butterfly are blue with black margins and spots, while the underwings have a grayish-brown coloration with a distinctive tail-like projection. Males and females have similar coloration.
  • Size: Eastern Tailed-Blues have a wingspan of about 0.75-1.25 inches.
  • Diet: The butterfly feeds on nectar from various flowers such as clovers and vetches.
  • Reproduction Female Eastern Tailed-Blue butterflies lay eggs singly on host plants such as clovers. Caterpillars feed on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of Eastern Tailed-Blues is approximately 1 week.
  • Host Plants: White Clover, Red Clover, Cow Vetch.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas) butterflies are known for their blue and black wing pattern with a tail-like projection on the underwings.

They can be found in open areas like fields and meadows throughout North America, including Tennessee.

Their host plants are typically clovers, and they feed on nectar from various flowers such as vetches. The lifespan of Eastern Tailed-Blues is generally 1 week.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Great Spangled Fritillary is a common and widespread butterfly species found throughout North America, including Tennessee.

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Great Spangled Fritillaries can be found in a variety of grassy habitats such as meadows, fields, and prairies.
  • Appearance: The upper wings of the butterfly are orange with black markings, while the underwings have a silver-spangled appearance with black spots. The wings have a scalloped edge, particularly on the lower wing.
  • Size: Great Spangled Fritillaries have a wingspan of about 2.5-3.5 inches.
  • Diet: The butterfly feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweeds, thistles, and Echinacea.
  • Reproduction: Female Great Spangled Fritillaries lay eggs onto host plants, usually violets. Caterpillars feed on host plants.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of Great Spangled Fritillaries is typically 1-2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed, Echinacea, Thistles, various Violet species.

The Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) butterfly is commonly found throughout North America and can be found in grassy habitats such as meadows, fields, and prairies in Tennessee.

They are known for their orange and black wing patterns with silver-spangled underwings.

Host plants for these butterflies are usually violets, and they feed on nectar from a variety of flowers such as milkweeds, thistles, and Echinacea. The lifespan of Great Spangled Fritillaries is generally 1-2 weeks.

Conclusion

Tennessee is home to a variety of butterfly species, ranging in size, color, and habitat preference.

From the bright orange Great Spangled Fritillary to the small blue Eastern Tailed-Blue, there is a butterfly species for everyone to admire.

Which butterfly species have you seen in Tennessee? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Butterflies   Updated: June 3, 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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