20 Most Beautiful Butterflies in the World
Butterflies are perhaps the most beloved insect in the world. They’re colorful, gentle, and harmless. They don’t make any noise, they can’t bite or sting, and they don’t look threatening in any way. While most people dislike the sight of insects such as roaches, ants, and even bees, butterflies are a universal favorite.
Their beauty is one of the main reasons why we love them so much. And each butterfly species has some unique attributes that make it worthy of admiration. Today we’re going to look at some of these striking butterfly species, so sit back and enjoy an educational session of virtual butterfly watching! In no particular order, here are 20 of the most beautiful butterflies in the world!
1. Giant Blue Morpho (Morpho Didius)
The Giant Blue Morpho is a tropical butterfly species of the genus Morpho. This species can be found across Peru, in high humidity areas, and near swamps. They need a humid habitat where they can find palm trees. Palm is the preferred food source for Giant Blue Morpho larvae.
This beautiful butterfly, like the other species in its genus, stands out due to its vivid blue coloring. The dorsal side of its wings is entirely blue and has a glossy, metallic shine to it. The forewings are elongated and well-defined by a thin dark line running across the wingtips.
The underside of the wings is light brown, with one row of dark rings running diagonally across each wing. Besides the spectacular color, this butterfly is also quite large, with a wingspan of up to 5.9 inches.
2. Glasswing Butterfly (Greta Oto)
The Glasswing Butterfly is most commonly found in tropical rainforests. It typically inhabits regions across Central and Southern America. But there have also been sightings as far north as Texas, USA.
This species is quite unique in its order. Most butterflies and moths in the order Lepidoptera rely on complex wing patterns and coloring to camouflage themselves. However, the Glasswing Butterfly avoids predation thanks to its almost completely see-through wings.
The center of its wings is completely transparent, except for thin, cell-like delimitations running across the surface. The narrow margins of the front and back wings are a muted orange-brown color. There’s also a small white streak running across the forewing.
Due to their transparent wings, they’re also called “espejitos” (little mirrors) in Spanish-speaking regions. Despite the delicate look of their wings, this butterfly can carry up to 40 times its body weight.
3. Chalk Hill Blue (Lysandra Coridon)
The Chalk Hill Blue butterfly gets its name from its natural habitat. This beautiful butterfly can be found all across Europe and Asia Minor, particularly in chalk grasslands. This small butterfly has an average wingspan of up to 1.4 inches. However, what it lacks in size, it makes up for with its mesmerizing appearance.
Male Chalk Hill Blue butterflies have pale blue wings with checkered white and dark-brown fringes. While the center of the wings is pure blue, the margins are delimitated by a well-defined white border, followed by a thin brown fringe. The body of the butterfly is covered in long, pale blue fuzz, similar to a moth. Both male and female butterflies have long, black and white striped antennae.
Currently, this butterfly is classified as a species of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List. No large declines in Chalk Hill Blue butterflies have been observed, even though this is a univoltine species. These butterflies only breed once a year, producing one single brood.
4. Monarch (Danaus Plexippus)
The Monarch is a North American species of milkweed butterflies. Like other milkweed butterflies, Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed flowers where their larvae grow and feed before pupation. This iconic butterfly is easily recognizable due to its unique combination of colors and patterns.
It has a wingspan of up to 4 inches and the upper side of the wings is bright orange. The wings are delimitated by a black and white checkered fringe. The forewings are elongated and they sport black tips, with one diagonal white stripe on each side. Compared to other butterfly species, the Monarch has very prominent black veins running across its wings.
These distinct wing veins have earned the Monarch nicknames like the “Common Tiger”, or the “Black-veined Brown”. The underside of the wings looks quite similar, but the colors are muted. The Monarch is such an iconic species and important pollinator, that it’s become the state insect of 7 American states (Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia).
5. Sapho Longwing (Heliconius Sapho)
This butterfly species inhabits tropical regions in Central and Northern South America, being found from Mexico down south to Ecuador. The unique pattern on this butterfly is a form of Müllerian mimicry. Together with the species Heliconius cydno, the Sapho Longwing forms a mimicry pair. These butterfly species use this wing coloring to warn predators about their unpleasant taste.
The Sapho Longwing has an average wingspan of 3 1/4 inches and a readily distinguishable wing shape. The forewings are elongated and roughly twice the size of the back wings. The edges are almost completely rounded and regular with only shallow indentations.
The upper side of the wings shows a combination of dark brown, blue, and light grey. The back wing is almost entirely dark blue and presents a metallic sheen.
The lower part of the wing becomes progressively darker in color, forming a fringe around the blue interior. The upper wings are dark brown with a wide ashy grey block of color running down the middle. The underside of the wing is almost entirely black but presents the same placement of the white streaks.
Close to the butterfly’s body, there are small red streaks of color running up the back wings.
6. Malabar Banded Peacock (Papilio Buddha)
The Malabar Banded Peacock is a species native to the Western Ghats, a mountainous region of Western India. Like other species in the genus Papilio, the Malabar Banded Peacock has a distinct hindwing shape resembling a swallow’s tail. The forewings have neat, regular edges. The hindwings are frilly and end with one thin, elongated tip on each side.
This butterfly has a wingspan of up to 6.1 inches. It has a unique geometrical pattern on its wings, with two bright green triangles spreading diagonally across the inner front and back wings. The green triangles are enclosed by a wide cyan blue border running diagonally on each wing, forming a V-shape when seen from above.
Finally, the wings end in a wide black border. But besides the beautiful color and the perfect geometry of the wings, the most unique thing about this butterfly is its scale organization. Different color scales are dispersed in such a way across the wings that they look like sparkles of glitter. How cool is that?
7. Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus)
The Spicebush Swallowtail gets its name from its preferred host plant, the spicebush. As other swallowtail butterfly species, these butterflies have the same characteristic hindwing tips that resemble a swallow’s tail. This species is native to North America, where it’s only found in the eastern regions of the US and Southern Ontario.
It has a wingspan of up to 4 inches. Compared to other species, sexual dimorphism isn’t as strong in the Spicebush Swallowtail. Both male and female butterflies present similar coloring and patterns. Adult butterflies are primarily dark brown to black.
There’s a distinct pale blue stripe of color on the hindwings, shaped like a half-moon. The lateral sides on the hindwings and forewings are lined by a border of light-colored oval spots, ranging in color from cream, to pale ashy blue. There’s a tiny, bright orange spot in the center of the hindwings.
8. Cape York Birdwing (Ornithoptera Priamus)
The Cape York Birdwing looks very unique, but it’s actually quite widespread. It covers a wide range of territories, including the central and south Moluccas, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and even Northern Australia.
Starting with the wing shape, this butterfly’s forewings are almost three times the size of the hindwings. The hindwings are small and round, while the forewings are long, thin, and almost rhombus-shaped. The hindwings are bright green with a narrow black border and dark-colored rings running close to the outer edges. There’s a tiny splotch of yellow on the upper side of each hindwing.
The forewings have a black center, surrounded by a bright green fringe. There’s a thin green vein running halfway across the center of the forewing. Besides the awesome look, this butterfly also has a cool name. Its scientific name (Ornithoptera priamus) is inspired by Priam, the legendary king of Troy during the Trojan war.
9. Red Cracker (Hamadryas Amphinome)
The Red Cracker is a species native to the American continent. It’s mostly found in the regions of Central America and close to the Amazon basin in Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. Like other cracker butterfly species, Hamadryas Amphinome gets its common name from the strange cracking sound that male butterflies produce. This is a normal behavior in this species and it’s part of the male butterfly’s territorial display.
But we have yet to find out why this butterfly is called the “Red” Cracker since there’s no red color in sight! In fact, this species’ wings are almost entirely blue! Both the forewings and hindwings present similar patterns and coloration. There’s little to no visual separation between them.
This butterfly’s wings have a very dark blue base color, along with a combination of intricate pale blue patterns running across the entire wing area. The hindwings have large rings, while the forewings are covered in wavy feather-like patterns. There’s a light cream-colored line running vertically across each forewing. The same pale blue line and ring patterns also cover the butterfly’s upper side of the body.
10. Chimaera Birdwing (Ornithoptera Chimaera)
The Chimaera Birdwing is a montane butterfly species. It’s only found in the mountainous rainforests of New Guinea. Its name comes from the mythological creature Chimaera, a fire-breathing creature made up of three different animals.
This butterfly sports a beautiful combination of black, yellow, and green. Its hindwings are dark yellow, with bright green veins running across. The yellow center color is surrounded by a narrow green ring. The hindwings are lined with thin, black margins and three dark-colored rings run diagonally along each outer wing side.
The forewings are mainly black, including the upper and outer edges. The lower edge of the forewing has a green border. There are also patches of green covering the center and upper part of the wings.
This butterfly is currently regarded as near threatened by the IUCN. It’s also listed as an endangered species in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade. Regulations are being imposed to control the trade of this species.
11. Ultraviolet Sulfur (Colias Alexandra)
“Ultraviolet Sulfur” is just one of the names of this butterfly species. It’s also known as “Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur” or simply “Alexandra Sulphur”. It’s native to the North American continent, and it can be found across wide areas ranging from Alaska all the way down to New Mexico and Arizona.
This species doesn’t have any intricate wing design…or does it? What’s unique about these butterflies is the males’ special wing patterns. They’re the method by which they attract female mates, so they must be really beautiful. But the colors run into the ultraviolet range, so they’re not visible to the human eye.
For us, this butterfly appears to have simple, glossy yellow-green wings, with dark brown outer edges. There’s also one small black dot in the upper center of each forewing. Female butterflies present similar colors, but they only have thin, white wing borders. The underside of the wings is a similar color, except it’s a bit darker and less saturated.
12. Colorado Hairstreak (Hypaurotis Crysalus)
The Colorado Hairstreak is the only member in its genus (Hypaurotis). It’s a montane species native to the Southwestern United States, where it lives in oak scrublands.
It has a beautiful dark purple base color on the upper side of its wings. Both the forewings and hindwings present wide black borders and two oval-shaped orange spots in each lower wing corner. There’s one large, circular, black or dark purple spot on the upper center of each forewing.
The forewings and hindwings are equal in size. The hindwings end in a thin, short tail-like growth. This hairlike tail end is part of where this butterfly’s name comes from. Speaking about its name, as you might have guessed, the Colorado Hairstreak is the state insect of Colorado.
13. Forest Giant Owl (Caligo Eurilochus)
This species covers quite a wide territory, ranging from Central America, all the way down to the Amazon Basin in South America. They’re typically found in rainforests across multiple regions.
The Forest Giant Owl can first be described as, well, a giant. It’s among the largest species not only in its genus but also in its family. It can grow to have a wingspan of up to 6.7 inches! But its most striking characteristic is its wing pattern. This butterfly’s hindwings have a big, dark spot surrounded by a bright, yellow ring.
It looks eerily similar to an owl’s eye. And this owl-like eye can be observed from both the upper and the underside of the hindwing. Besides the eyespots, this butterfly’s wings are also mainly dark brown, with large areas of thin, silvery lines intertwined. At a first glance, these look a lot like an owl’s feather patterns.
14. Widespread Forester (Euphaedra Medon)
The Widespread Forester is a butterfly species native to Africa. It can be found all the way across the continent, from the North-West regions such as Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, all the way down to Zambia. This butterfly lives in areas with forests and water-loving vegetation.
Its wings are teal-blue and have frilly outer margins. The hindwings are most brightly colored. The light blue center is surrounded by a wide band of dark blue-green on the outer sides. The inner margins of the hindwings are brown, and they present short, fur-like fuzz.
The forewings are dark blue-green with wide stripes of light blue on the lower edge and upper inner corner portion. There are three small dark-blue oval shapes on the upper inner corner of each forewing. Towards the upper outer corner of the wing, there’s a bright yellow splotch spreading diagonally across.
The butterfly’s body is mostly ashy brown, with some small spots of blue and green towards the extremities.
15. Alpine Black Swallowtail (Papilio Maackii)
The Alpine Black Swallowtail is native to Central and Eastern Asia. Like other swallowtail butterflies, this species has beautiful tail-like endings on its hindwings. This butterfly has a wingspan of up to 5.5 inches. What’s unique about this species is the fact that females are more colorful than males.
This butterfly’s wings are mostly black. However, there are multiple green scales dispersed across the wing surfaces, which create a soft shiny green effect. It almost looks like this butterfly has wings made out of dark green velvet! The male’s forewings look mostly dark green, with a small portion of bright neon-green scales spreading downward. Females present the same pattern, but their forewings have a golden rather than green sheen.
The hindwings are mostly a combination of dark blue and dark green on the upper inner portion. The colorful center is surrounded by a wide dark margin. The edges of the hindwings are frilly and covered in bright blue markings. There’s a blue and red ring on the lower inner corner of each hindwing. Female butterflies have similar markings, but they present more deep blue and bright red than males.
16. Adonis Blue (Lysandra Bellargus)
The Adonis Blue butterfly can be found across Western, Central, and Southern Europe, as well as in Iraq, Iran, Caucasus, and Turkey. Its natural habitat is in calcareous grasslands where the temperatures are high and there’s low humidity.
This is a small species. Its wingspan reaches up to 1.2 inches at most. This butterfly gets its name from the beautiful coloring on the male’s wings. Male Adonis Blue butterflies are a pure, deep sky-blue with no distracting patterns.
Both the forewings and hindwings are almost entirely the same blue color, except for a very thin black fringe that separates the inner blue from the white margins. The butterfly’s body is also entirely blue and it’s covered in short, soft fuzz. The underside of the wing is ashy brown and presents a few orange and black oval spots.
17. Sri Lankan Ceylon Rose (Pachliopta Jophon)
The Sri Lankan Ceylon Rose is native to, you guessed it, Sri Lanka! More precisely, it can be found in the rain forests of Sri Lanka. Due to local habitat destruction, this butterfly species is considered critically endangered by the IUCN.
This is another species of swallowtail butterflies. It has elongated, equally-sized forewings and hindwings. The hindwings have frilly margins and they end in a thin, elongated tip that resembles a tail. This butterfly’s body and wings are pure black. The forewings have white streaks arranged horizontally, close to the outer edges.
These white streaks only travel up to the middle of the forewing, and they’re well delimitated by the black outer margins. The hindwings are almost entirely black, with a round portion of white spots in the center. The white spots are separated by black veins and they look similar to the petals of a small flower. Close to the outer edges, there are multiple half-moon-shaped red spots.
18. Zebra Longwing (Heliconius Charithonia)
The Zebra Longwing inhabits regions across Central and South America. It can also be found in Florida and Southern Texas. However, mass usage of insecticides in Florida has led to a near-collapse in the numbers of this species.
This butterfly has very narrow and elongated wings compared to other species. However, it has a maximum wingspan of up to 4 inches. What’s most interesting about this species is its zebra-like wing pattern. Both forewings and hindwings are entirely black, with thin white and yellow stripes running almost horizontally across the surface.
The underside of the wing looks very similar, but it’s a bit lighter and with a few rounded red spots close to the butterfly’s body. This butterfly can consume both nectar and pollen, which their bodies can turn into toxic compounds. As a result, this butterfly is toxic to predators. Its dark wings serve to warn predators of its unpleasant taste.
19. Dead Leaf (Kallima Inachus)
The Dead Leaf, also known as the Indian Oakleaf, or Orange Oakleaf, is a butterfly species native to the tropical regions ranging from South Asia all the way to East Asia, Japan. This butterfly has a unique way of using camouflage.
When its wings are closed, they look very similar to a dry leaf. The underside of the wings is light brown with multiple small speckles of dark brown. The wing veins are also darker in color and look a lot like the veins on a leaf. This butterfly even has a straight dark line traveling through the center of the wing.
It looks a lot like the midrib on a real leaf! The wing shape is also different from that of most other butterflies. There are no frilly margins or intricate shapes. Instead, the wing shape looks a lot like a regular leaf, rounded all over and with a short, pointy tip. The upper side of the wings is quite colorful, with portions of blue, yellow, and brown.
20. Anna’s Eighty-Eight (Diaethria Anna)
Anna’s Eighty-Eight is a butterfly species native to Central and South America, where it inhabits wet tropical forests. Sometimes, it can fly further north into Texas. This butterfly’s name comes from the number-like marks under its wings.
The underside of the wings is white, with multiple thin black stripes arranged like the rings on a tree trunk. In the center of the forewing, there are two black and white marks in the shape of the number ’88’. Sometimes, these marks might also look like “98” or “89”. There’s a thin red stripe of color lining the upper outer edge of the forewing.
The upper side of the wings looks completely different. The forewings and hindwings are dark brown, almost black, with a thin white border. There’s a thin blue-green stripe traveling vertically across the center of the forewing. There’s one white circular spot in the outer upper corner of each forewing.
There are approximately 17,000 species of butterflies in the world. The ones we went over today are just some of the most beautiful ones, but the list could be a lot longer! Butterflies are quite unique among animals because they can come in so many different patterns and colors, including very rare ones such as blue, purple, and even translucent!
Male butterflies are usually the more colorful sex, but sometimes, we also have exceptions. Some butterfly species such as the Spicebush Swallowtail show little to no sexual differences in wing patterns and coloring. In other species, such as the Alpine Black Swallowtail, females are actually more colorful than males.
Most of the butterflies on this list are classified as species of least concern by the IUCN. However, some of the species on this list such as the Chimaera Birdwing or the Sri Lankan Ceylon Rose are currently threatened or near-threatened. Luckily, efforts are always being made to save and conserve declining populations of butterflies.