30 Butterfly Species in Wisconsin

You are about to embark on a fascinating journey, exploring the 30 unique butterfly species that color Wisconsin’s landscape.

Each species has its own distinct characteristics and habitats that make it captivating and vital to the state’s ecosystem.

Prepare to immerse yourself in the beautiful, diverse universe of these fluttering marvels.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Great Spangled Fritillary, scientifically known as Speyeria cybele, is among the fascinating butterfly species you’ll find in Wisconsin.

Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies thrive in open woodlands, meadowlands, and prairies.
  • Appearance: They are notable for their bright orange, spotted wings. The lower side is dominated by silver spots, giving them a unique charm.
  • Size: They’re fairly large, with a wingspan ranging between 2.5 to 4 inches (6.3 to 10.1 cm).
  • Diet: Generally feeds on nectar from a variety of flowers, including milkweeds and thistles.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on or near violets – the host plant. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring.
  • Lifespan: The adult stage of life lasts two to three weeks.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars’ diet mainly includes various species of violets.

The Great Spangled Fritillary, with its vibrant colors, is indeed a sight to behold as it flutters through the Wisconsin landscape.

Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

The Wild Indigo Duskywing is a unique species of butterfly. Let’s delve deeper into understanding this magnificent creature.

Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)

  • Habitat: They are typically found in open, sunny areas such as fields, roadsides, and gardens.
  • Appearance: These butterflies have a dusky-brown color with an assortment of small, light spots on their wings.
  • Size: They are small-to-medium sized, with a wingspan ranging from 1.5 to 2 inches (about 3.8 to 5 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies are nectar feeders with a preference for flowers that are pink or yellow while their larvae feed on the leaves of the wild indigo plant, hence the name.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on the underside of leaves where the larvae later emerge.
  • Lifespan: They usually live for about a month in the wild.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plants are different species of the wild indigo plant (baptisia).

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

The Zebra Swallowtail is a unique and stunning butterfly species native to Wisconsin.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Prefers moist, open woodlands and river valleys.
  • Appearance: Features black and white striped wings, hence its name. It also flaunts red and blue spots near the tail.
  • Size: A medium-sized butterfly, coming in at about 2.75 to 4 inches (7 to 10 centimeters).
  • Diet: Primarily feeds on nectar from a variety of different flowers. Also known to puddle, or sip water from mud for minerals.
  • Reproduction: Lays eggs on pawpaw trees, the only host plant for their larvae.
  • Lifespan: Has a short lifespan, typically around 6 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Relies heavily on pawpaw trees for nourishment and reproduction.

It’s a joy to witness these butterflies fluttering and gliding gracefully with their long ‘tails’ trailing behind!

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady, scientifically known as Vanessa cardui, is an exquisite spectacle to behold.

painted lady butterfly

  • Habitat: It habitually frequents open meadows, parks, gardens, and disturbed areas.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts a distinct combination of orange-brown wings, covered by an intricate black and white pattern on the tips.
  • Size: Showcasing an impressive wingspan of roughly 5 – 9 cm (2 – 3.5 inches) it’s hard to miss in the wild.
  • Diet: Adult Painted Ladies primarily feed on nectar from a variety of wildflowers, while caterpillars enjoy thistles and mallows.
  • Reproduction: The female lays her eggs on the top of host plants. They prefer thistles, mallows, and other broadleaf plants.
  • Lifespan: Their lifespan is typically 2 – 4 weeks during the summer months.
  • Host Plants: Their preference for host plants leans towards thistles, hollyhocks, and other mallows.

It’s a joy to spot these creatures around Wisconsin, particularly in the warmer months.

Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)

Meet the Gray Hairstreak, one of the most common hairstreaks in North America.

Gray Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly is adaptable and can be found in different environments – from sunny meadows to marshy areas and even in your gardens.
  • Appearance: As the name suggests, it’s gray in color. Look for the two subtle, tail-like extensions on the hind wings complemented by a black line running across them.
  • Size: Small but noticeable. It spans 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to almost 4 cm).
  • Diet: Adults often feed on flower nectar, while caterpillars prefer leaves of host plants.
  • Reproduction: The female lays eggs on the flower buds of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Typically, just a few weeks. However, late summer generations may live up to 9 months.
  • Host Plants: This butterfly isn’t picky. It selects from a range of plants – including cotton, mallow, and beans.

The beauty of the Gray Hairstreak is found in its simplicity, gracefully adorning Wisconsin’s landscapes.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarchs, scientifically known as Danaus plexippus, are undeniably among the most iconic butterfly species in Wisconsin and across North America.

Monarch Butterfly

  • Habitat: Monarchs inhabit open fields, meadows, weedy areas, marshes, and roadsides. They’re famous for their epic migratory journeys.
  • Appearance: They flaunt a distinctive orange and black pattern. Their wings showcase deep orange with black edges and veins.
  • Size: The adult Monarch spans about 3.5 to 4 inches (8.9 to 10.2 centimeters). They’re easily spotted due to their significant size.
  • Diet: As adults, they predominantly feed on nectar from a variety of flowers. As caterpillars, they consume milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs individually on milkweed plants, the sole food source for the emerging caterpillars.
  • Lifespan: It varies depending on the time of year. Monarchs born in late summer can live up to eight months, while others live a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Milkweed plants are essential for their life cycle. Monarch caterpillars feed solely on these plants.

Atlantis Fritillary (Speyeria atlantis)

The Atlantis Fritillary may not be the best-known species, but it sure is interesting. A perfect highlight of the diverse types of butterfly species found in Wisconsin.

Atlantis Fritillary butterfly

Here is a brief overview on this creature.

  • Habitat: You’ll often spot this butterfly in open, sunny areas. They typically pick wildflower meadows, damp areas, and forest fringes as their home.
  • Appearance: The Atlantis Fritillary sports an orange-brown top-wing with a silvery-blue underside. A spectacle to witness!
  • Size: Typically, the butterfly spans from 2.3 to 3.1 inches (58 to 80 mm).
  • Diet: Adults prefer nectar from flowers while caterpillars munch on the leaves of violets.
  • Reproduction: This species lays eggs in the fall. The young ones emerge in the spring.
  • Lifespan: Atlantis Fritillaries generally live just a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: Violet (Viola) leaves are the top choice as host plants for butterfly larvae. Keep an eye on those violet patches for signs of activity.

Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)

The Orange Sulphur, scientifically known as Colias eurytheme, is one of the pleasant butterfly species native to Wisconsin.

This radiant creature, typically found from mid-to-late summer, brings a vibrant splash of color to various landscapes.

Orange Sulphur butterfly

  • Habitat: They’re observed in open areas like meadows, parks, and fields. They also adapt to disturbed habitats, such as roadsides and gardens.
  • Appearance: Distinguished by their bright orange upper wings, they have black borders and tiny black dots at the center.
  • Size: These butterflies measure about 1.5 to 2.5 inches (3.8 to 6.3 cm) in diameter.
  • Diet: Orange Sulphurs mostly feed on flower nectar, with favorites including dandelions, asters, and alfalfa flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on host plants. The caterpillars that emerge are greenish-yellow and grow by feeding on the host plant.
  • Lifespan: Orange Sulphurs usually live for about one month.
  • Host Plants: The host plants include alfalfa, white clover, and other legumes.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

The Red Admiral, scientifically known as Vanessa atalanta, is a vibrant attraction in Wisconsin’s landscape.

red-admiral butterfly

Let’s delve into its captivating features:

  • Habitat: Tends to favor gardens, parks, woods, and yards.
  • Appearance: Boasts a striking black wingspan with bright red bands and white spots.
  • Size: Ranges in size from 1.75 to 2.75 inches (4.5 to 7cm).
  • Diet: Feasts mostly on nectar from plants like milkweed and aster.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on top of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Lives for about a year, generally from spring through to fall.
  • Host Plants: Primarily nettles, but sometimes hops.

This butterfly species is known for its gallant patterns and beautiful red bands, making it a sight to behold especially when it soars through the air. The Red Admiral is not just a colorful spectacle but also contributes to the balance in our ecosystem.

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis)

The White Admiral is a stunning butterfly species that you can often find gracefully fluttering across the beautiful landscapes of Wisconsin.

White Admiral butterfly

  • Habitat: White Admirals favor deciduous woodlands, parks, and gardens where their host plants, birch and willow, thrive.
  • Appearance: These elegant creatures boast black wings rimmed with wide, white bands, and white spots along the edges.
  • Size: Adults typically span 2.5 to 4 inches (6.3 to 10.2 cm), making their beautiful markings clearly visible.
  • Diet: Their diet consists nectar from a variety of flowers including milkweed and wild cherry and damp soil. Sap, rotten fruit, and dung are also essential for nutrients.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green eggs singly on the upper side of host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults usually live about three weeks, in which they must mate and reproduce.
  • Host Plants: Willow, birch, and poplar trees are important caterpillar host plants.

Their charm and elegance certainly make the White Admiral a sight to behold in the great state of Wisconsin.

Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)

The Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis) is a captivating species, showcasing attributes that will leave you admiring its existence.

Hackberry Emperor butterfly

  • Habitat: They mainly reside in woodlands and orchards that are home to their primary food source, the hackberry trees.
  • Appearance: This species exhibits a rich brown color with light spots. Their intricate pattern adds flair to their mystique.
  • Size: Their wingspan stretches from 1.8 to 3 inches (4.5 to 7.6 cm), a size that commands attention.
  • Diet: On top of hackberry tree leaves, they also enjoy a dose of nectar, fruit, and sap.
  • Reproduction: After mating, female Hackberry Emperors lay their eggs on the underside of leaves.
  • Lifespan: The average life expectancy for the adult is about two weeks, while their entire life cycle lasts around 40 days.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred host plants are the various species of hackberry trees, hence their name.

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

Stepping into the expanse of Wisconsin’s wildlife, you’re bound to encounter the Spring Azure, a petite and charming butterfly species.

Spring Azure butterfly

  • Habitat: The Spring Azure is found in a variety of habitats such as meadows, parks, gardens, and the edges of forests.
  • Appearance: These butterflies feature a blue upperside with a lighter underside adorned by dark speckles.
  • Size: They have a modest wingspan, appealing at around 1 to 1.25 inches (2.5 to 3.1 cm).
  • Diet: A nectar lover, Spring Azures are attracted to diverse flowering plants.
  • Reproduction: They undergo a single yearly generation in the North, while up to 3 in the South.
  • Lifespan: Their life expectancy frequently revolves around two weeks.
  • Host Plants: A range of woody plants like Dogwoods and Cranberries function as their host plants.

An encounter with these amiable flutters adds a dash of vibrant blue to your exploration.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

You’ll find the American Lady in several habitats, such as open fields, gardens, and marshlands. One of their striking features is the two large eyespots on the lower side of their hind wings.

American Lady butterfly

  • Habitat: Open fields, gardens, marshes.
  • Appearance: They are mostly orange, with black and white spots and two large eyespots.
  • Size: They have a size range of 1.75 – 2.4 inches or approximately 4.5-6 cm.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on flower nectar, while the larva prefers specific host plants.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay eggs on the top of host plants. The caterpillars use the plant for food after hatching.
  • Lifespan: The entire life cycle from egg to adult takes about a month. Some can live for up to 2 weeks as adults.
  • Host Plants: Preferred plants are pearly everlasting, cudweed, burdock, and common plantain.

Cherish the chance to see an American Lady fluttering around in the sunny, open spaces of Wisconsin. They’re proof of nature’s eye-catching design work.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

The Silver-spotted Skipper is quite a sight to behold. Seen across Wisconsin, it features a unique set of traits that set it apart from the rest.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly

  • Habitat: These butterflies prefer sunny open areas and tend to frequent gardens, fields, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: They sport a distinct silver-white spot on the underside of their hind wings, hence their name. The upper side is brownish-black with orange spots.
  • Size: The Silver-spotted Skipper measures about 1.75 to 2.5 inches (4.5 – 6.5 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies sip nectar from flowers such as the red clover, thistles, and milkweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single eggs on preferred host plants. Caterpillars build silk shelters on the leaves where they hide during the day.
  • Lifespan: They live for around 3 to 4 weeks as adults.
  • Host Plants: They favor the Black Locust and other various species of locust trees.

Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)

This butterfly, also known as Limenitis arthemis astyanax, is a beauty to spot.

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

  • Habitat: They are ubiquitous in forests and near water bodies.
  • Appearance: As their name suggests, they sport a deep purple-blue color with bold red spots on the lower wings.
  • Size: Slightly larger than most, they feature a wingspan between 3 to 3.5 inches (7.5 to 9 cm)
  • Diet: Adults draw nutrition from tree sap, rotting fruits and sometimes even from animal dung.
  • Reproduction: Breeding happens twice a year. Caterpillars of the second brood overwinter till spring.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived as adults, they usually survive for 2 weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: Willow, Poplar and Cherry trees serve as host plants for the caterpillars.

Their vibrant coloring and elusive nature make them a delight for butterfly enthusiasts in Wisconsin.

Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

The Eastern Comma is a distinct butterfly species found in Wisconsin. Let’s dive into more detail about this creature’s unique characteristics.

Eastern Comma butterfly

  • Habitat: It thrives in areas with deciduous woodlands, orchards, and parks.
  • Appearance: With its dark orange wings and a silver comma-shaped mark on the underside, it presents a stunning sight.
  • Size: This species typically measures between 1.5 and 2 inches (around 38 to 50 mm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies love sap, rotting fruit and nectar, while the caterpillars enjoy feeding on leaves of hop vines or elms.
  • Reproduction: The butterfly reproduces twice yearly – first in late spring and then in summer.
  • Lifespan: Eastern Commas have an average span of about two weeks in the adult stage.
  • Host Plants: Their preferred larvae nourishment includes a variety of plants, particularly hop vines and nettles.

No wonder the Eastern Comma captures our heart with its elegance and life cycle.

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Meet the Viceroy (Limenitis archippus), an endemic butterfly species in Wisconsin. Despite being smaller, it bears a close resemblance to the Monarch butterfly.

This creature’s peculiar habit is its culinary preference for the willow tree nectar.


  • Habitat: Viceroys usually occupy wetlands, marshes, and shores of Wisconsin.
  • Appearance: They exhibit a beautiful pattern of black lines creating a net over a blazing orange backdrop.
  • Size: This species reaches about 2.6-3.1 inches (70-80mm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Willow, poplar, and apple tree nectars are their favorite delicacies.
  • Reproduction: Viceroys go through a single generation each year. Female species lay eggs in willow leaves.
  • Lifespan: They live around 2 weeks, maturing from caterpillar to butterfly within this period.
  • Host Plants: Viceroys have a preference for willows as their host plants. They also use poplars and fruit trees.

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

The Black Swallowtail is a stunning butterfly species. This beautiful creature adds a touch of color to Wisconsin’s beautiful landscapes.

Black Swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Its natural habitat covers thick forests, gardens, fields, and roadsides. It’s adaptive, and appreciates various environments.
  • Appearance: The adult Black Swallowtail is recognized by its mighty black wings adorned with yellow spots. A dash of blue and red near the tail completes its stunning look.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging around 3.1-4.1 inches (7.9-10.4 cm), it hovers majestically in the air.
  • Diet: Besides nectar from flowers such as milkweed and thistle, the caterpillars consume foliage of plants.
  • Reproduction: During the breeding months of May through August, they lay tiny spherical eggs on their host plants.
  • Lifespan: A lifespan of 10 to 12 days is what they average in the wild.
  • Host Plants: Parsley, dill, carrot, and fennel are some of the favorite host plants for their larvae.

Its versatility and adaptability are undeniable. So, keep a lookout for this stunning butterfly when exploring Wisconsin’s outdoors.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

The American Copper, a tiny but striking butterfly species, is found throughout Wisconsin.

American Copper butterfly

Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Habitat: American Coppers are usually found in sunny, open areas. They love fields, meadows, and along roadsides.
  • Appearance: They are recognizable with bright orange upper wings and impressive dark spots. Their underwings carry unique, intricate markings.
  • Size: These butterflies are quite small with a wingspan between 1 to 1.3 inches or 2.5 to 3.3 cm.
  • Diet: Nectar from flowers like Dandelions, Milkweed, and Red Clover is their main diet.
  • Reproduction: They possess a fascinating reproductive process, whereby females deposit their eggs singly on the host plant leaves.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan ranges from spring to fall, undergoing two to three broods each year.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillars feed majorly on the plant species of Sheep’s Sorrel and Common Sorrel.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

This eye-catching butterfly, known as the Common Buckeye, is a familiar sight across the state. Its scientific name, Junonia Coenia, refers to its distinctive, eye-like markings.

Common Buckeye butterfly

  • Habitat: Open, sunny spaces such as meadows and fields are favored by this butterfly.
  • Appearance: It sports brown wings adorned with eye-like spots, and white bars on the front wing.
  • Size: It averages from 1.6 to 2.2 inches (40 to 56 mm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: Nectar from a range of flowers form their diet.
  • Reproduction: Females lay green, ribbed eggs singly on host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for about two weeks in summer, while fall adults live to migrate to warmer climates.
  • Host Plants: Plantains, snapdragon, foxglove and other members of the figwort family serve as hosts. The Common Buckeye is widely distributed, adaptable, and in some regions, may produce multiple generations per year.

Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)

Coral Hairstreak is a unique species of butterfly that you can find in Wisconsin.

Coral Hairstreak butterfly

  • Habitat: Preferring wooded areas and fields, they are widespread across North America, not just in Wisconsin.
  • Appearance: They don’t have tail-like structures typical of many hairstreak butterflies. They are brown with a row of reddish spots on the edge of the hindwing.
  • Size: Coral Hairstreaks are relatively small, typically measuring between 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: They have a sweet tooth, feeding mostly on the nectar from flowers of different plants.
  • Reproduction: The female Coral Hairstreak will lay single eggs on the buds of its host plant.
  • Lifespan: Their life cycle from egg to adult butterfly lasts about 1 month.
  • Host Plants: The larvae enjoy feasting on plants, particularly those from the plum and cherry family.

This species is usually spotted around the mid-summer season, especially in July. Look out for them during your next Wisconsin nature trail hike.

Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)

The Cabbage White, or Pieris rapae, is a common sight across Wisconsin.

Cabbage White butterfly

  • Habitat: Thriving across varied environments, Cabbage Whites can be spotted in gardens, meadows, and crop fields.
  • Appearance: Females sport two black dots on their upper wings, while males have a single black dot.
  • Size: This butterfly’s wingspan ranges from 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5.1 cm).
  • Diet: The adults feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of host leaves.
  • Lifespan: They live for around 2 to 4 weeks, longer while overwintering.
  • Host Plants: They often favour plants of the Brassicaceae family, like radishes, cabbages, and mustards.

As familiar as they are beautiful, the Cabbage Whites and their fluttering flight are an integral part of Wisconsin’s summer landscape.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Meet the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a fascinating butterfly species named after its striking swallow-like tail.

eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: Their preferred environment is leafy woodlands, but they are also found in city parks and gardens.
  • Appearance: They have large yellow wings adorned with black tiger-like stripes. The males have a striking bluish color on their hind wings.
  • Size: This species may reach a wingspan of 2.5 to 4.5 inches (roughly 6.3 to 11.4 cm), making it one of the larger species in Wisconsin.
  • Diet: The adult butterflies feed on the nectar of various flowers including milkweed, while the caterpillars dine on the leaves of deciduous trees.
  • Reproduction: Female swallowtails lay their eggs individually on host plant leaves, where the caterpillars will later emerge and feed.
  • Lifespan: The average life cycle, from egg to adult butterfly, spans 6 to 14 days and up to 36 days during winter.
  • Host Plants: Wild black cherry, ash trees, and tulip trees serve as host plants where the female lays her eggs.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

The Question Mark butterfly, or Polygonia interrogationis, is a sight to behold!

Question Mark butterfly

  • Habitat: Found in a range of environments such as forests, orchards, and parks.
  • Appearance: Identified by its unique silvery mark in the shape of a question mark.
  • Size: Wingspan varies from 2.25 to 3 inches (5.7 to 7.5 cm).
  • Diet: Prefers rotting fruits and tree sap, but also feeds on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs on the underside of host plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults can live up to 2 weeks in summer, while autumn adults can survive until spring.
  • Host Plants: Includes elms, nettles, and hackberries for larval growth.

Catch a glimpse of this majestic creature for an intriguing sight! Remember, the best way to identify this butterfly is through the silvery question mark visible on the underside of its hind wings. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

The Giant Swallowtail is an impressive species that you might encounter in Wisconsin.

giant swallowtail butterfly

  • Habitat: You’ll find this species mainly in deciduous broadleaf forests, citrus plantations, and suburban gardens.
  • Appearance: They sport a vibrant yellow and black color scheme. The wings show a beautiful contrast of sunny yellow and striking black patches.
  • Size: Adult Giant Swallowtails range from 10 to 16 cm (4 to 6.3 in). When they flutter around, they’re hard to miss.
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they’re fond of citrus leaves. But adults usually sip on the nectar of flowers like Japanese honeysuckle.
  • Reproduction: After mating, the female will lay her spherical, cream-colored eggs on the undersides of leaves.
  • Lifespan: Adults enjoy a lifespan of about a month.
  • Host Plants: These butterflies are especially fond of citrus plants like Peruvian pepper tree, rue, and prickly ash.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Meet the Gulf Fritillary, a bright, orange butterfly that’s a common sight in Wisconsin.

gulf fritillary

  • Habitat: Prefer warm climates, can be found in various environments including gardens, parks, and roadsides.
  • Appearance: An adult features bright orange wings with black markings, with a wingspan measuring about 2.5-3.5 inches (6.4-8.9 cm).
  • Size: Pretty impressive as they range from 2.4 to 3.7 inches (6-9.5 cm).
  • Diet: Sip nectar from flowers. Their caterpillars feed on the leaves of passion vines.
  • Reproduction: Female lays the eggs singly on the leaves of plants, particularly the passion vine.
  • Lifespan: Short lifespan as adults, surviving just about 3 weeks.
  • Host Plants: Passion vines are their go-to, especially Passiflora incarnata and Passiflora lutea.

Undeniably striking, their vibrant coloration warns predators of their poisonous nature. The toxins, absorbed from their caterpillar host plants, affords them a sense of security that other species might envy.

As you encounter these incredible creatures, remember to appreciate their beauty from a distance.

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)

Don’t you just adore the stunning Variegated Fritillary? This butterfly species is certainly a sight to behold.

Variegated Fritillary butterfly

  • Habitat: It thrives in a wide range of environments, from meadows to roadsides.
  • Appearance: Orange-brown with black markings on the upperside, the undersides boast a complex pattern of black, brown, and orange spots.
  • Size: Would you believe it spans 1.75 to 2.25 inches (4.44 to 5.71 cm)?
  • Diet: Its feeding habits mainly involve nectar from various flowers, including milkweed and thistles.
  • Reproduction: They breed multiple times a year, with each female laying hundreds of eggs.
  • Lifespan: Unlike other species, they only live 2-3 weeks after leaving their cocoons.
  • Host Plants: It’s worth noting that they use a variety of host plants during their larval stage, like violets and passionflower.

Fun fact: It’s recognized as a ‘migrant species’ because of its movement across the U.S. A fascinating fellow, isn’t it?

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)

Meet the Spicebush Swallowtail, a dark beauty of Wisconsin. This butterfly is easily distinguished by its large size and stunning colors.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly

Here’s what you need to know about the Spicebush Swallowtail:

  • Habitat: Prefers forests and wet meadows.
  • Appearance: Adult butterflies are predominately black, with blue and white spots adorning the wings edges. The dramatic wings are paired with an orange eyespot near each tail.
  • Size: Wingspan of about 4 inches (approximately 10 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies mainly feed on nectar from a variety of plants.
  • Reproduction: Females lay single green eggs on the leaves of host plants.
  • Lifespan: This species has a lifespan of approximately one month, depending on the environment.
  • Host Plants: Spicebush, Sassafras, and other plants in the Laurel family.

Isn’t it fascinating to know the stunning Spicebush Swallowtail calls Wisconsin home? If you’re fortunate, you may come across one on your next nature walk.

Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)

The Silvery Checkerspot is a remarkable species native to Wisconsin.

Silvery Checkerspot butterfly

Here’s an overview:

  • Habitat: This butterfly loves sunny, open areas like meadows and fields. They thrive in patches of sunflowers blooming in the spring.
  • Appearance: Sporting an orange and brown pattern with shiny silver spots on the lower wings, it stands out effortlessly among its butterfly peers.
  • Size: Silvery Checkerspots typically measure around 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm) in wing span.
  • Diet: The caterpillars enjoy snacking on sunflower leaves, while the adults partake in nectar gatherings from various flowers.
  • Reproduction: Female Silvery Checkerspots lay eggs on the underside of host plant leaves which hatch into caterpillars, completing their life cycle.
  • Lifespan: This butterfly usually has two generations a year. Adult butterflies live 10-14 days.
  • Host Plants: The key host plants for this species are sunflowers, asters, and black-eyed susans. These plants cater for both adults for nectar and larvae for a food source.

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The Mourning Cloak, scientifically known as Nymphalis antiopa, is a prominent butterfly species in Wisconsin.

Mourning Cloak butterfly

  • Habitat: It can adapt to a variety of environments and is often found in forests, parks, and even suburban areas.
  • Appearance: The Mourning Cloak is easily identifiable, boasting dark brown wings with an edging of cream-colored dots.
  • Size: This species has a relatively large wingspan, growing anywhere between 2.25 to 4 inches (57mm to 100mm).
  • Diet: The Mourning Cloak primarily feeds on tree sap, especially that of oaks. It also enjoys rotting fruit and occasionally flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Female Mourning Cloaks lay clusters of eggs on the undersides of host plant leaves in early spring.
  • Lifespan: This species stands out for its unusually long lifespan; adults typically live up to 11 to 12 months.
  • Host Plants: Preferred host plants for this species include willow, aspen, cottonwood and hackberries.

Stunning and surprisingly hardy, the Mourning Cloak is a fascinating addition to Wisconsin’s diverse butterfly species.


In essence, Wisconsin’s landscape is filled with breathtaking butterflies, each with unique traits and roles in our ecosystem.

It’s always fascinating to learn more about these fluttering creatures and admire them in their natural habitat.

We’d love to read your comments, share with us what your favorite Wisconsin butterfly species are!

Butterflies   Updated: July 26, 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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