30 Butterfly Species in West Virginia

Delve into the impressive diversity of butterflies species found in West Virginia.

From the striking Monarch to the delicate Eastern Pine Elfin, encounter 30 exquisite species that grace this region.

Get ready to appreciate the exquisite details, habits, and habitats of these butterfly specimens.

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

The Spicebush Swallowtail is truly a captivating sight in the woods of West Virginia. Like most butterflies, this species has a unique lifecycle and features that set it apart from others.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: The Spicebush Swallowtail most commonly inhabits gardens, woods, and swamps. They have an affinity for damp, moist locations.
  • Appearance: This species’ wings are a dizzying blend of black and blue, with distinctive white spots streaked across the edges.
  • Size: Adult butterflies measure in at an impressive 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm), making them hard to miss.
  • Diet: Preference is for nectar from a variety of flowering plants. As caterpillars, they feed chiefly on spicebush, hence the name.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants. The larvae go through multiple stages before maturing into adults.
  • Lifespan: Their adult life can range from 2 weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feast on sassafras, spicebush, and sweetbay.

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas)

This is one of the most common butterflies found in West Virginia.

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly

Let’s find more about this charming critter:

  • Habitat: These creatures primarily inhabit open or semi-shaded areas, meadows, and woodland edges.
  • Appearance: Male Eastern Tailed-Blues have bluish upper sides, while females are less brilliant. Both sexes have a conspicuous orange spot near the tail on the underwing.
  • Size: They are small in size, typically having a wingspan of about one inch (25.4 millimeters).
  • Diet: Adults feed on nectar, while caterpillars eat leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singularly on flower buds of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle is usually around two weeks, from egg to adult butterfly.
  • Host Plants: They mainly prefer plants from the legume family, like wild peas and clovers, for their larvae.

Isn’t it amazing how such a small creature can have such a fascinating life cycle?

Checkered White (Pontia protodice)

The Checkered White, known scientifically as Pontia protodice, is a common butterfly species found in West Virginia.

You’ll often see them in places marked by bills of colorful wildflowers and grasses.

Checkered White butterfly

  • Habitat: They favor open areas, like weedy fields, pastures, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: Characterized by their striking white wings covered in darker checkered patterns.
  • Size: They are moderately sized, having a wingspan of 1.5-2.2 inches (3.8-5.5 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar from flowers is the primary source of food for adults, whereas, the caterpillars feed on their host plants.
  • Reproduction: They are defined by two broods in the Northern range that occurs from May to September.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan ranges between 7 to 10 days for adults.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars prefer feeding on the leaves of plants like London rocket, cabbage, and many other plants in the Mustard family.

The Checkered White presents a delightful spectacle with its understated charm and elegance.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Recognized globally for their beauty, Monarchs are often spotted fluttering in the West Virginian gardens and meadows.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

  • Habitat: They mostly thrive in open fields, especially those filled with milkweed plants.
  • Appearance: Boasting of bright orange wings laced with black, Monarchs are a sight to behold. Their wings characteristically house tiny white spots.
  • Size: Monarchs are relatively large, spanning around 3.7 – 4.1 inches (9.4 – 10.5 cm).
  • Diet: Primarily, they feed off nectar. Milkweed plants serve as both their primary food and breeding grounds.
  • Reproduction: The female Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adult Monarchs have a two-month lifespan on average. But, the last generation hatched in summer survives up to 8 months, migrating to a warmer climate for winter.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plant is milkweed. Monarchs use it for laying eggs and the caterpillars feed off the leaves.

Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)

The Silvery Checkerspot, a delightful visitor in West Virginia’s lush environments, is known for its distinctive patterned wings.

Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: Typically, you’ll find them basking in open fields, meadows, along roadsides, or in gardens.
  • Appearance: Their unique patterns consist of a series of dark checker-like spots on silver-toned hind wings. Checkerspots also have a striking line of orange crescents, really making them stand out among the crowd.
  • Size: As adults, they are small to medium in size (about 2.5 inches or 63.5 mm in wingspan).
  • Diet: Adult Checkerspots favor nectar from a variety of flowers. As caterpillars, they feast on leafy greens.
  • Reproduction: Females usually lay their eggs in clusters on host plants.
  • Lifespan: While longevity varies, they typically live for around a month in the wild.
  • Host Plants: Host plants include the sunflower family, so you’ll often spot these beauties fluttering about in sun-drenched locales. In fact, sunflower plants provide plenty of nourishment for their larvae.

Remember their distinctive patterns, and you’re sure to spot these unique butterflies on your next outing.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail is a stunning species. Here’s some detailed information about it.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies are primarily found in woodlands and open fields.
  • Appearance: They are easily identifiable by their black and white striped wings, with red and blue markings on the lower wing.
  • Size: Wingspans vary between 2.75-4 inches (approximately 7-10 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies sip nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the leaves of common pawpaw (Asimina triloba), the caterpillar’s food source.
  • Lifespan: The average lifetime of an adult Zebra Swallowtail is a few weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The common pawpaw serves as the primary host plant for Zebra Swallowtails.

You’ll be happy to know that this species can be found across much of West Virginia!

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

Giant Swallowtails are remarkable for their immense size and striking appearance.

giant swallowtail butterfly

Here are some key points to help you identify and understand these unique creatures:

  • Habitat: They can adapt to a variety of environments, including forests, fields, and suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: Characterised by their yellow and black stripes arranged in a neat, zebra-like pattern.
  • Size: These butterflies are the largest native to North America, their wingspan ranging from 4 to 6 inches (10 – 15 cm).
  • Diet: As larvae, they feed on leaves of the citrus family plants. Adults primarily sip nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay spherical, cream-coloured eggs on the leaves of suitable host plants.
  • Lifespan: They typically live for 6 to 14 days, however, those that overwinter can live up to 10 months.
  • Host Plants: Exclusive to members of the Rutaceae family, especially the citrus types, like orange and lemon trees.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

This charismatic species graces us with its presence year-round in West Virginia.

painted lady butterfly

Let’s delve a little deeper into what makes this butterfly so special.

  • Habitat: They’re most conducive to open and disturbed habitats – commonly found in gardens, meadows, and roadside fields.
  • Appearance: Painted Ladies flaunt intricate patterns with a mix of orange, black and white throughout the top of their wings. Their underside presents a complex mosaic of colours with subtle hints of pink.
  • Size: Adults span anywhere from 2 to 2.9 inches (5.1 to 7.3 centimeters).
  • Diet: A fan of sweet fluids, it feeds on nectar from flowers, favoring thistles, and overripe fruit.
  • Reproduction: Each female lays up to 500 eggs, usually solitary on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults typically live for two to four weeks, although some can survive up to nine months.
  • Host Plants: Thistles are their top pick, but they’re also known to lay eggs on Mallow.

The Painted Lady adds a splash of orange zest to West Virginia’s colourful array of butterflies.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail is one of West Virginia’s most striking butterfly species. Its beauty and unique appearance make it a favorite among butterfly enthusiasts.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s what you should know about this species:

  • Habitat: It favors sunny and open environments, such as fields, gardens, and meadows.
  • Appearance: Black with two rows of yellow spots along the edges of its wings. It also has blue and red spots near the tail.
  • Size: It has a wingspan that ranges between 3.1 – 4.3 inches (7.9 – 11 cm).
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed primarily on nectar from a variety of flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay yellow-colored eggs on host plants, common are parsley plants.
  • Lifespan: Typical lifespan extends from 10 to 14 days for adult butterflies.
  • Host Plants: Primarily plants in the parsley family, including Queen Anne’s Lace and Golden Alexanders.

This species is not just a pleasant sight, but also plays an important role in the ecosystem as a pollinator.

Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)

Cloudless Sulphur is a striking butterfly species you’ll be lucky to spot in West Virginia.

cloudless sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: They are commonly found in the open areas, gardens, and along the road edges.
  • Appearance: This species is recognizable by their bright yellow wings with small sparse spots on them.
  • Size: They generally measure about 2.25-3 inches (roughly 6-7 cm), making them a good medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults majestically sip nectar from brightly colored flowers, while caterpillars feast on plants’ leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on plants, which hatch into ravenous caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The pupae can survive the winter, but generally, sulphurs have a short lifespan, typically just a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Some favorite food sources include the leaves of various wildflowers and plants in the pea family.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur, also known as the Alfalfa Butterfly or simply the “Clouded Sulphur,” is an engaging spectacle amongst West Virginia’s butterfly species.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: You’re likely to find them in open, sunny areas like meadows, fields, gardens, and roadsides. They love alfalfa fields in particular.
  • Appearance: They have yellow or orange upperwings with black borders. A spot in the center of the forewing is a distinguishing feature.
  • Size: They have a wingspan of about 1.3 to 2.2 inches (3.3 to 5.6 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, they feed on nectar from flowers like milkweed, aster, and clover.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on host plants. The eggs hatch into green caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: These butterflies have a lifespan of about a week as adults.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed majorly on legumes like alfalfa, white clover, and pea plants. They’ve also been found on native legumes.

Their span, host plants, and preferred habitat make them a reliable fluttering fixture in West Virginia’s open spaces.

Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon)

The Eastern Pine Elfin is a unique butterfly species.

Eastern Pine Elfin - Callophrys niphon, C. F. Phelps Wildlife Management Area, Sumerduck, Virginia, April 29, 2020

  • Habitat: These butterflies predominantly inhabit pine forests.
  • Appearance: The Eastern Pine Elfin has a mottled brown and tan upper side while the underwing is decorated with various markings, including a post-median line.
  • Size: The small butterfly has a wingspan of just 1 – 1.5 inches (25 – 38 mm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on tree sap, dung, and sometimes nectar.
  • Reproduction: Mating activities occur in the spring, producing a generation of adults in the late summer.
  • Lifespan: The adult butterfly’s life expectancy is about a week.
  • Host Plants: The Eastern Pine Elfin primarily uses pine trees in the genus Pinus such as Jack Pine and Atlantic White Pine, as host plants.

The Eastern Pine Elfin provides a perfect example of adaptation and survival in the animal kingdom.

By understanding each species, we increase our knowledge of the diverse and precious nature encompassing West Virginia.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

The Common Buckeye is a striking butterfly, mesmerizing onlookers with its fascinating pattern.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in various environments, from forests to grasslands, but mainly in sunny, open areas.
  • Appearance: Known for its large eye spots on wings. Its brown and orange wings are marked with creamy, bold circles.
  • Size: Ranging from 1.6 to 2.2 inches (4 to 5.6 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult Buckeyes feed on nectar from various flowers like asters, chicory, and knapweed.
  • Reproduction: Adult females lay single eggs on the tips of host plants.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan ranges from a few weeks to a month, depending on the conditions.
  • Host Plants: Favorite plants for larvae are snapdragons, plantains, and ruellias.

Whether it flutters in your garden or parks, the Common Buckeye showcases its stunning wings, making a memorable sight.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Meet the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a beautiful member of the Papilionidae family. Abundant in West Virginia, it’s a sight you’ll adore in your garden.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

Let’s know more about it:

  • Habitat: Primarily forests, but also seen in gardens and parks.
  • Appearance: Yellow with black tiger-like stripes; females have a blueish hindwing.
  • Size: A wingspan ranging from 3 to 5.5 inches (approximately 7.5 to 14 cm).
  • Diet: Mainly nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single green eggs on host plants.
  • Lifespan: A few weeks as an adult butterfly; up to a year in the entire life cycle.
  • Host Plants: Various species of trees and shrubs, including wild cherry and tulip tree.

Next time you’re out in the West Virginia wilderness, keep an eye out for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Their striking colors make them hard to miss.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

The Pearl Crescent is a visually striking butterfly, native to West Virginia.

Pearl Crescent butterfly

  • Habitat: They are most common in open areas such as fields and road sides.
  • Appearance: Sporting a vibrant orange and black pattern, their wings are easily identifiable.
  • Size: They measure about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm), making them a relatively small butterfly.
  • Diet: They primarily feed on nectar from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females deposit eggs on or near the host plant.
  • Lifespan: On average, they live around 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: The larvae feed on Aster plants, with smooth aster being a favourite.

Its unique patterns and engagements with the ecosystem highlight the Pearl Crescent as a notable specimen among West Virginia’s diverse butterfly species.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma is a fascinating butterfly species that is common in West Virginia. Its beauty and distinctive appearance make it a favorite among butterfly enthusiasts.

Eastern Comma butterfly

  • Habitat: It commonly thrives in wooded areas, forest edges, and parks.
  • Appearance: It dons a seasonally variable color and pattern. In summer, the underside is light-colored with a small, silvery comma-shaped mark. During winter, they exhibit a darker shade to blend with the bark of trees.
  • Size: They display an impressive wingspan ranging approximately from 1.6 – 2.5 inches (4.1- 6.4cm).
  • Diet: Eastern Comma primarily feed on rotting fruit and tree sap, but caterpillars stick to leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single greenish-white eggs on host plants, which later hatch into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: The adults typically live for about a couple of weeks.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants include nettles, elms, and hops. These are essential for the caterpillars to thrive.

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)

Also known as the ‘Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary,’ the Silver-bordered Fritillary is an appealing butterfly to gaze upon.

It’s found in a variety of moist environments, like marshlands and wet meadows.

Silver-bordered Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers wet grasslands, forest marshes, and bogs.
  • Appearance: Boasts an orange color with black spots on its upper wings. The lower wings present an exhibition of appealing silver and black patterns.
  • Size: Grows an average wingspan of 1.5 – 2 inches (38-51 mm).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they mostly eat violets. Butterflies sip nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: One brood is typically produced each season.
  • Lifespan: They emerge in late May to June and live for about a month.
  • Host Plants: Predominantly violets, specifically the Marsh Blue Violet.

While this species isn’t endangered, habitat loss does pose a significant threat to its population.

Efforts dedicated to preserve wetlands are integral for the continuation of Silver-bordered Fritillary.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

Meet the Gray Hairstreak, the most widespread hairstreak in North America. Also known as the Strymon melinus.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: This adaptable entity abounds in a range of habitats, from meadows to forest edges, and even in your garden!
  • Appearance: The Gray Hairstreak dresses in muted gray and sports orange and black spots on the tail ends of hind wings with a prominent white, hair-like strip in the center.
  • Size: Quite small, this creature features a wingspan of just about 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  • Diet: Nectar lovers, they frequent a diversity of plants such as milkweed and mint.
  • Reproduction: The female lays green eggs one by one on host plants. These then transform into green or red larvae.
  • Lifespan: From egg to tiny butterfly, the lifespan is just about a month.
  • Host Plants: They aren’t picky. You’ll find them feeding on numerous plants, including cotton, beans, corn, and clover.

Remember, next time you’re in a West Virginian garden, look out for this gray icon!

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is a fascinating butterfly species you can find in West Virginia.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies enjoy a wide variety of habitats, from sunny fields to forests.
  • Appearance: They boast of a brown color and distinct silver spots on their hind wings.
  • Size: Silver-spotted Skippers average about 2 inches (5 centimeters).
  • Diet: They primarily feast on the nectar of flowers like milkweed and red clover.
  • Reproduction: Females lay one single egg per host plant leaf, specifically on Black Locust trees.
  • Lifespan: These skippers have a short lifespan, typically living 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Black Locust and other legume trees/bushes serve as their primary host plants.

These shy butterflies swiftly avoid predators and prefer resting with their wings spread flat. This unique butterfly species adds beauty to the West Virginia flora and fauna.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

The American Lady, scientifically named Vanessa virginiensis, is prevalent across West Virginia. This butterfly species is a delight to eyes with its vibrant colors.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: They’re found across various ecosystems but prefer open grasslands, meadows, and gardens.
  • Appearance: The wings showcase a mingling of ochre with black and white spots. The hind wings have a distinct blue eye-spot, adding charm to their overall appearance.
  • Size: Generally, their wingspan ranges from 1.75 to 2.6 inches (4.5 to 6.6 cm).
  • Diet: As adults, they largely feed on nectar from flowers like thistles, asters, goldenrods, and marigolds.
  • Reproduction: Females deposit green mottled eggs on the upper leaves of the host plants. The eggs hatch into multi-colored caterpillars within a week.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan ranges between 2 to 4 weeks in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed on various plants, mostly preferring cudweed, everlasting, and pearly.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, scientifically known as Nymphalis antiopa, is a striking butterfly species native to West Virginia.

It’s popularly recognized for its distinctive appearance and fascinating lifecycle.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

Here’s what you need to know about this beautiful creature:

  • Habitat: Found in hardwood forests, city parks, and backyards, they adapt well to different environments.
  • Appearance: It sports a maroon upper wing with creamy yellow edges and iridescent blue spots, mimicking a mournful cloak.
  • Size: Adults have a wingspan of 2.25-4 inches (5.7-10.2 cm) – pretty large for a butterfly.
  • Diet: Adults feed on tree sap, especially oak, as well as fruit and occasionally nectar.
  • Reproduction: After mating, females lay clusters of eggs which hatch into black spiky caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Among the longest-lived butterflies, surviving up to 12 months.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed mainly on Willow, Poplar and Cottonwood leaves.

Easily distinguished by its velvety dark wings, the Mourning Cloak butterfly is a captivating sight to behold.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

You may come across the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) in various habitats across West Virginia. Bursting in color, this distinct butterfly brings a touch of beauty wherever it lands.

red admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: This species thrives in moist fields, woods, yards, and parks.
  • Appearance: The Red Admiral’s black wings feature red-orange bands, white spots, and a slightly scalloped border.
  • Size: Once matured, this butterfly boasts a wingspan of 1.75-2.5 inches (or 4.5-6 cm).
  • Diet: As an adult, the Red Admiral feeds mostly on sap, rotten fruit, and bird droppings. Occasionally, their diet includes flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Each year, there are usually 2-3 broods. The female lays her eggs on the new growth of host plants.
  • Lifespan: A quick lifecycle, the Red Admiral butterfly only lives about six months.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed primarily on nettles, including the stinging nettle and small nettle.

The Red Admiral is undoubtedly a favorite for butterfly enthusiasts around the globe.

‘Astyanax‘ Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

The ‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple is an enchanting species, which adds a spark of color to the West Virginia butterfly fauna.

‘Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

  • Habitat: It favors the thick forests, open woodlands, and even suburban gardens tailored with host plants.
  • Appearance: This butterfly attracts eyes with its iridescent blue wings, contrasted by red spots towards the edge and beautifully outlined with black.
  • Size: It spans around 2.5 to 4 inches, approximately 6.3 to 10 cm.
  • Diet: The adult partakes of flower nectar, fermenting fruit, and dung.
  • Reproduction: The female lays eggs on the tip of host plants where the caterpillars develop.
  • Lifespan: The adult usually survives for a few weeks, while the whole lifecycle is about 2 months.
  • Host Plants: It prefers willows, poplar, and birch trees where they lay eggs and the larvae subsequently feed.

Enjoy spotting this stunning wonder in the West Virginia wilderness.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

The Viceroy butterfly is an intriguing species, commonly found across West Virginia. Mimicking the color pattern of the monarch, this butterfly has a distinctive line across its hind wings, setting it apart.


  • Habitat: They favor wet, open or shrubby spaces such as marshes or fens.
  • Appearance: Viceroys have a dark orange color with black veins and a black line across the hind wings.
  • Size: Reaching a wingspan of 2.5 to 3 inches (6.3 to 7.6 cm), the Viceroy is a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: Adult Viceroys feed on dung, carrion, and nectar from flowers, while caterpillars feed on willow and poplar leaves.
  • Reproduction: Female lays egg individually on top surface of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Viceroys survive for approximately 14 days as adults.
  • Host Plants: They favor willows, poplars, and apple trees for their lifecycle.

Baltimore (Euphydryas phaeton)

The Baltimore is a stunning butterfly species found in West Virginia. These fluttering beauties are sometimes mistaken for Monarchs due to their similar coloring.

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly

Here are a few interesting facts about the Baltimore:

  • Habitat: Predominantly found in moist, swampy places like marshes or near streams.
  • Appearance: Deep orange wings with black markings. Females have more extensive black patches.
  • Size: They span between 2-2.5 inches (5-6.4 cm) when their wings are fully stretched.
  • Diet: Mainly thrive on nectar from flowers but the caterpillar particularly likes to munch on Turtlehead plant.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs in clusters on the underside of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adult Baltimore butterflies live around 10-20 days.
  • Host Plants: Mainly Turtlehead plants but occasionally snapdragons or plantains serve as substitutes. Their numbers have been decreasing over the years, so consider growing some of their host plants in your backyard to give Baltimore butterflies a helping hand.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

The Variegated Fritillary, or Euptoieta claudia, adds a variety of colors to the butterfly species found in West Virginia.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: These beauties are adaptable and can thrive in different environments, including fields, roadsides, and even gardens.
  • Appearance: Their wings are distinct, displaying an array of orange, black, and white with intricate patterns.
  • Size: Typically, a healthy adult’s wingspan is between 1.5 to 2.75 inches (3.8 – 7 cm), making it a medium-sized butterfly.
  • Diet: They drink nectar from flowers, providing crucial pollination in return.
  • Reproduction: Females lay tiny, cream-colored eggs, typically on the underside of the host plants’ leaves.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle lasts approximately one month, from egg to adult.
  • Host Plants: They prefer a wide range of plants, with a preference for passion vines, maypops, and violets.

Keep an eye out for these versatile creatures that add charm and contribute to the biodiversity in West Virginia!

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

The Cabbage White is a fascinating species of butterfly, commonly visible in West Virginia.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: It can typically be located in gardens, meadows, and farmland; it holds a strong preference for disturbed ecosystems.
  • Appearance: It boasts delicate, white wings with black spots; in females, these spots can be doubly pronounced.
  • Size: It ranges in size from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm); with females being slightly larger than male counterparts.
  • Diet: As adults, their diet includes flower nectar; specifically, they favor mustards and mints for feeding.
  • Reproduction: Females lay yellowish eggs on the underside of host plant leaves; they can lay hundreds of these eggs per season.
  • Lifespan: The average lifespan is about seven to 10 days; they multiple generations throughout a season.
  • Host Plants: They primarily feed on Brassicaceae family plants; this includes cabbage, mustard, and radish.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

The Spring Azure, scientifically known as Celastrina ladon, is one of many fascinating butterfly species you may encounter.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: You will typically find these beauties in woodlands or forest edges and open areas including meadows and parks.
  • Appearance: The Spring Azure has a light blue upperside, while the underside is pale, almost white, with small black spots on the hindwing.
  • Size: Adult butterflies are quite small, measuring only 0.75 to 1.25 inches (about 1.9 to 3.2 centimeters).
  • Diet: As larvae, they feed on flower buds. Mature butterflies sustain themselves on nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: The female lays eggs on flower buds, which hatch into caterpillars once the bud opens.
  • Lifespan: The life expectancy of this species is about one year.
  • Host plants: The host plants include plants from families like Mahonia, Spiraea, Kalmia and others. These plants serve as both a food source for the larvae and a place for egg-laying.

The Spring Azure is a unique butterfly species often seen in West Virginia during the spring and early summer months.

Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)

The Pipevine Swallowtail is a butterfly species you’ll find fluttering around the hills of West Virginia.

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

Here is an overview to let you learn more about them:

  • Habitat: They gravitate towards moist, wooded areas, including lush forests and stream corridors.
  • Appearance: Glossy black wings with iridescent blue or green hues on the underside set this butterfly apart. Adults also sport a single row of orange spots on the fin.
  • Size: Their wingspan falls between 3 to 3.5 inches (7.6 to 8.9 cm), a medium size in the world of butterflies.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on the nectar from a variety of flowers while the caterpillars munch on pipevine plants.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of pipevine leaves where they will remain until they mature into caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: Pipevine Swallowtails live for approximately one month.
  • Host Plants: Their main host plant is the pipevine, which gives this butterfly its name. In turn, caterpillars ingest the toxins from this plant, making them unappealing to predators.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) is one of the exciting butterfly species found in West Virginia.

Question Mark butterfly

Let’s take a closer look:

  • Habitat: Prefers open, sunny places such as fields, forests edges and parks.
  • Appearance: It’s name comes from the white question mark-shaped marking on its underwings. The upper surface can either be bright orange or purplish-red.
  • Size: The wingspan ranges from 2.25 to 3 inches (5.7 to 7.6 cm).
  • Diet: Adults feed on rotting fruit, tree sap, and sometimes animal dung or carrion.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs singly, which hatch after about a week into caterpillars with spiky bodies.
  • Lifespan: Adults can live for almost a year, undergoing two broods from May to September.
  • Host Plants: Caterpillars feed on various trees and shrubs including elms, hackberries, nettles, and hops.

Filled with unique traits, and striking design, the ‘Question Mark’ is definitely among the most captivating fluttering creatures in West Virginia.


Your journey through the world of West Virginia’s butterflies is now complete.

Encountering these 30 species, from the majestic Monarch to the vibrant Variegated Fritillary, reveals the incredible biodiversity in this region.

Feel free to drop a comment about your favorite butterfly species or experiences observing these vibrant creatures in their natural habitat.

Butterflies   Updated: September 11, 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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