20 Most Endangered Butterfly Species

Have you ever stopped to admire the delicate beauty of a butterfly? These tiny creatures are much more than just a pretty sight; they’re also essential to our ecosystem.

Unfortunately, a startling number of butterfly species are under threat – let’s take a closer look at 20 of the most endangered.

Miami Blue (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri)

Miami Blue is a butterfly species rich in history, heavily linked to Florida. It’s hard to spot, but if you do, you’re in for a treat.

Miami Blue, Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri, female

  • Habitat: Mostly found in the coastal areas of southern Florida.
  • Appearance: Blue wings with black borders, and an orange-colored underside with black spots.
  • Size: Pretty small, around 1 inch (2.54 cm) in length.
  • Diet: Adult Miami Blues drink nectar from various plants, with larvae feeding on balloon vine.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on budding balloon vine leaves.
  • Lifespan: They typically live a few short weeks.
  • Host Plants: Mainly balloon vine (Cardiospermum corindum), but also blackbead and nickerbean.

Sadly, this species has faced numerous threats, from habitat destruction to pesticide exposure.

Miami Blues are among the world’s most endangered butterflies, a sad reality we must work to change.

Saint Francis’ Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci)

Encounter a kind of beauty that stands on the brink of extinction- the Saint Francis’ Satyr butterfly.


  • Habitat: These winged jewels are mainly discovered in wetlands and grasslands around Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
  • Appearance: Saint Francis’ Satyrs flaunt a beautiful motif of light brown and orange sectors overlaid by black spot patterns.
  • Size: The delicate creature spans across approximately an inch and a half (3.8cm).
  • Diet: Sustenance for this butterfly is derived from nectar they extract from plants.
  • Reproduction: Puzzling to scientists, these butterflies reproduce only in disturbed habitats, not pristine ones.
  • Lifespan: The often short-lived Saint Francis’ Satyr sees a lifespan from egg to adult to be up to a year.
  • Host Plants: The caterpillar stage cherishes feeding on various sedges.

Discover more about this rare beauty and efforts put into conservation, and we’ll find ourselves closer in hand to protect wavering species.

Oregon Silverspot (Speyeria zerene hippolyta)

Oregon Silverspot butterfly is considered one of the most endangered species, with its populations dramatically declining.


  • Habitat: They’re usually found along the Pacific Northwest coast; in a particular tall grass prairie habitat, called “salt-spray meadows.”
  • Appearance: They don a brilliant orange-brown colour with stunning silver spots beneath their wings.
  • Size: This butterfly is unassumingly small in size with a length of 5 cm (about 2 in).
  • Diet: In caterpillar state, the diet includes violets as primary food; Adult butterflies feed on nectar from flowers.
  • Reproduction: Eggs are laid in late summer, where their larvae feed on violets only post winter hibernation.
  • Lifespan: This species has one short generation per year, lifespan ranging from a few weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: The genus viola, primarily early blue violet, is the host plants for Oregon Silverspot. This explains their strong bond with grassland habitats where these plants thrive.

Laguna Mountains Skipper (Pyrgus ruralis lagunae)

The Laguna Mountains Skipper is one butterfly you should be familiar with. Sadly, it’s on the brink of extinction.

Two-banded Checkered Skipper butterfly

Let’s learn more about this flying wonder:

  • Habitat: Exclusively in San Diego County, California. Found particularly in meadows and open woodlands.
  • Appearance: Characterized by distinct brown and orange markings on its wing undersides.
  • Size: Quite tiny, with an average wingspan of just about 1.25 inches (3.18 centimeters).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they feed on a specific plant, spreading lomatium. Adult butterflies prefer nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Reproduction: There’s a solitary annual generation each year, typically emerging in April.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived, usually around a week for adults. However, the total lifespan including the larval stage is about a year.
  • Host Plants: The Laguna Mountains Skipper caters rely solely on the spreading lomatium plant during the larval stage for survival.

This butterfly is truly an icon of its unique habitat. Sadly, habitat destruction poses a significant threat to its existence.

Uncompahgre Fritillary (Boloria acrocnem)

The Uncompahgre Fritillary (Boloria acrocnem) is among the more unique butterfly species around. As fascinating as it may be, it’s sadly a vanishing sight.

Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly

Here are some key facts about this endangered butterfly:

  • Habitat: This butterfly calls the high alpine meadows of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in the United States home.
  • Appearance: Sporting a silver-spotted coloration on an orangish-brown underwing, it’s a sight to behold.
  • Size: It’s quite petite, just about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide!
  • Diet: As adult butterflies, they love the nectar from alpine flowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs on the host plant, usually once a year.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived adult life, survives only a few weeks in summer.
  • Host Plants: They have a special preference for plants like Rosaceae and Asteraceae.

Through the beauty of this butterfly, we learn how even the smallest creatures play vital roles in our ecosystem.

Fender’s Blue (Plebejus icarioides fenderi)

Let’s talk about a little, blue-winged wonder – Fender’s Blue butterfly. Rightfully named after its stunning, iridescent blue wings, this species is a true gem.

However, its beauty is declining, and it’s now classified as endangered.

Fender's Blue Butterfly (Plebejus icarioides fenderi), adult female, dorsal

Here is a snapshot of the Fender’s Blue butterfly:

  • Habitat: Favouring prairies, fields, and meadows of the Pacific Northwest, particularly Oregon.
  • Appearance: An attractive butterfly, males boast an iridescent silvery-blue hue while females exhibit a duller brown shade.
  • Size: A modest little creature, average wingspan ranges from a tiny 0.75 to 1.00 inch (1.9–2.5 cm).
  • Diet: Primarily, they feed on flower nectar but caterpillars thrive on lupine leaves.
  • Reproduction: Mating period begins late spring, and females lay eggs on Kincaid’s lupine plants.
  • Lifespan: Short-lived, these butterflies survive only about a week.
  • Host Plants: The endangered Kincaid’s lupine serves exclusively as the Fender’s Blue larva host plant.

The reduction of its habitat has severely affected the survival of this innocuous creature. Let’s dive deep into why more species face this risk.

Palos Verdes Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis)

The Palos Verdes Blue is a dazzling butterfly species unfortunately facing extinction. This butterfly is endemic to a small region in California.

Palos Verdes Blue butterfly

  • Habitat: It’s found only in the Palos Verdes Peninsula area, thriving in coastal sage scrubs.
  • Appearance: Male Palos Verdes Blue butterflies have a vibrant blue upper side, while females have a duller brownish-blue hue.
  • Size: These are tiny creatures, with a wingspan of just 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) across.
  • Diet: Butterflies sip nectar from flowers. This species particularly prefers locoweed and deerweed.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the host plants. After hatching, caterpillars feed on these plants.
  • Lifespan: Adults live for a brief couple of weeks, while larvae can live for up to 10 months.
  • Host Plants: Locoweed and deerweed are their primary host plants. Protection of these plants is now integral in saving this species.

So, preserving the delicate ecosystem of the Palos Verdes Blue is crucial for this small, yet beautiful creature’s survival.

Bay Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha bayensis)

The Bay Checkerspot is something you kindly need to understand. It is somewhat tricky given their endangered status.

Bay Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: This butterfly thrives in grasslands, preferably with native bunch grasses.
  • Appearance: The Bay Checkerspot is distinguished by the intricate multicolored pattern of spots and bands on its wings.
  • Size: Generally, these delicate butterflies have a wingspan of about 2 inches (5 cm).
  • Diet: As caterpillars they enjoy plantain species but, in their transformed state, they drink nectar from native wildflowers.
  • Reproduction: Females lay their eggs primarily on dwarf plantain plants.
  • Lifespan: These stunning butterflies have a remarkably short lifespan of around two weeks in their adult phase.
  • Host Plants: The dwarf plantain and owl’s clover are essential for the Bay Checkerspot’s reproduction. Its unique lifecycle sings to its dependence on these host plants.

Isn’t it fascinating to learn about these little creatures and their struggle for survival?

Mission Blue (Icaricia icarioides missionensis)

The Mission Blue butterfly is one of a kind and not in a good way, as it teeters precariously on the brink of extinction.

Endangered mission blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides missionensis)

Now let’s dive into what makes this butterfly species unique:

  • Habitat: Call northern California, especially the San Francisco Bay Area, home. Sadly, urban development has led to a drastic shrinkage of their habitat.
  • Appearance: Eye-catching males boast a vivid hue of blue, while females are brown on top. Both genders have distinctive rows of black spots.
  • Size: Small, with a wingspan of just about an inch, or around 2.5 centimeters.
  • Diet: Primarily lupine plants – it prefers to feed on their nectar in adult form.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on lupine plants, the caterpillar’s host. Mating season is generally once a year.
  • Lifespan: Like many butterflies, their lifespan is short, normally only a few days to a week.
  • Host Plants: Lupines, to be specific. Without them, Mission Blues can’t complete their life cycle, leading to a sharp population decline.

Lange’s Metalmark (Apodemia mormo langei)

Meet the Lange’s Metalmark, one of the most endangered butterfly species. The beauty of its orange-red wings with black spots is undeniably breathtaking.

Endangered Lange's metalmark butterfly (Apodemia mormo langei)

Here are some quick facts about this remarkable insect:

  • Habitat: Primarily found in the Antioch Dunes in California.
  • Appearance: Orange-red wings with black spots.
  • Size: An adult Lange’s Metalmark has a wingspan of about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
  • Diet: Adults sip nectar from flowers while the caterpillar depends on the Antioch Dunes Buckwheat for food.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the underside of leaves of their host plant which the larvae later feed on.
  • Lifespan: The typical lifespan is 10 to 14 days for adults.
  • Host Plants: Primarily dependent on the Antioch Dunes Buckwheat plant.

In spite of its brief lifespan, the Lange’s Metalmark plays a vital role in the ecological balance. Yet, urban development and invasive species are pushing it to the brink of extinction.

Island Marble (Euchloe ausonides insulanus)

Island Marble is a type of butterfly listed as one of the world’s most threatened species. This white and yellow butterfly has a captivating characteristic that deserves your attention.

Island marble butterfly

  • Habitat: Primarily on San Juan Island, Washington.
  • Appearance: Underwings are marbled yellow and green, hence the name Island Marble.
  • Size: They are small with a wingspan averaging 1.25 inches (3.2 cm).
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on flower nectar while the caterpillars eat leaves.
  • Reproduction: Female butterflies lay a single egg on a host plant at a time.
  • Lifespan: Like many adult butterflies, an Island Marble’s lifespan is short – typically a few weeks.
  • Host Plants: The butterfly’s larvae prefer the Mustard family, notably Menzies’ pepperweed and field mustard.

Conservation efforts are in effect to protect and nurture the Island Marble, which includes protecting its vital host plants.

Let’s hope the Island Marble can continue to thrive in its Washington home.

San Bruno Elfin (Callophrys mossii bayensis)

The San Bruno Elfin is one of the more exotic butterfly species.

the vulnerable San Bruno elfin butterfly

Let’s find more about it:

  • Habitat: They specifically live in the coastal scrublands of the San Bruno Mountains in California.
  • Appearance: This butterfly has a unique brown color, with occasional orange scales on the hind wings, making it easily identifiable.
  • Size: Small in size, they range from 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) in wingspan.
  • Diet: As larvae, they feed on Stonecrop. Adult butterflies feed primarily on tree sap and rotting fruit instead of nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs in March and April. The caterpillars hatch and feed on their host plant.
  • Lifespan: After surviving the winter as larvae, the adults live up to 2 weeks, typically in March and April.
  • Host Plants: Sedum spathulifolium or Broadleaf stonecrop serve as the primary host plant for the San Bruno Elfin’s larvae.

Dakota Skipper (Hesperia dacotae)

The Dakota Skipper is one remarkable butterfly species that faces significant threats.

Dakota Skipper, Hesperia dacotae, female

Now, let’s delve into understanding this fantastic creature more intimately.

  • Habitat: They traditionally dwell in tallgrass prairies, which unfortunately have seen a drastic reduction in recent years.
  • Appearance: They’re quite appealing with a warm brown-orange color sprinkled with some black spots.
  • Size: An adult Dakota skipper has a wing span of about 1 inch (2.54 centimeters).
  • Diet: Adult skippers feed on nectar from several prairie flowers.
  • Reproduction: They lay eggs on or near the host plants, and the hatching caterpillars feast on these plants.
  • Lifespan: Their lifecycle is approximately one year. Adults live for around one week during which they reproduce.
  • Host Plants: Dakota Skippers are fairly exclusive and favor ‘Switchgrass’, ‘Prairie Bluestem’ or ‘Little Bluestem’ grasses for their growth and development.

Just imagine, a creature so tiny and lovely, holding onto life tenuously in the rapidly evolving world. We must do our part to help them survive.

Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek)

Let’s meet the Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek), a tiny but massively significant butterfly.

Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek)

  • Habitat: Mostly found in native prairie habitats, particularly tallgrass prairie.
  • Appearance: A small, brown, and unmarked butterfly with a lot of charisma. Look for fringe on the wings; it’s a distinctive feature.
  • Size: Average wingspan is around 1 inch (2.54 cm) only.
  • Diet: As adults, they intake nectar from flowering plants. The larvae munch on grasses.
  • Reproduction: Females usually lay eggs on the host plants in the mid-summer.
  • Lifespan: Their lifecycles encompass an entire year. Adults have a brief lifespan of a week or two.
  • Host Plants: They prefer certain species of grasses, especially Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis).

Isn’t this butterfly’s life interesting? In the midst of its beauty lays a tale of survival, which isn’t always easy.

Said to be fewer than 500 in population, the Poweshiek Skipperling is, tragically, on the brink of extinction.

Schaus Swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus)

Get ready to learn about this stunning, yet critically endangered butterfly species, the Schaus Swallowtail.

Schaus' Swallowtail, Papilio aristodemus ponceanus

  • Habitat: Mainly confined to a few tropical hardwood hammocks in the Florida Keys, in the US.
  • Appearance: It boasts a beautiful combination of yellow and black, with a set of tails that mimic the look of its head, a handy deceptive tool against predators.
  • Size: With a wingspan of approximately 3.1-3.5 inches (7.9-8.9 cm), this butterfly is a sight to behold.
  • Diet: The caterpillars feed on plants like Torchwood and the adults enjoy flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Females lay pale green eggs singularly on new growth of the host plants.
  • Lifespan: Typically, around two months, but the Schaus Swallowtail creates several generations in a single year.
  • Host Plants: Primarily the use Wild lime and Torchwood.

Loss of habitat and other, vicious realities of today’s world have critically endangered this butterfly species.

So, let’s all remember it’s possible to contribute even in our small ways to their conservation.

Mount Charleston Blue (Icaricia shasta charlestonensis)

Our attention draws to Mount Charleston Blue butterfly, an absolute feast for the eyes. However, it’s a pleasure we may soon be deprived of, unless we act.

Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly (Icaricia shasta charlestonensis)

  • Habitat: This unique species calls the high-elevation forests of Nevada’s Spring Mountains home.
  • Appearance: Characterised by its exquisite bright blue color, it distinguishes itself from others with noticeable black margins on its wings.
  • Size: This species isn’t size-threatening, typically measuring from 16mm to 31mm.
  • Diet: As larvae, they munch on host plants, while adult butterflies consume nectar.
  • Reproduction: They lay their eggs in the summer. The larvae hibernate during winter and mature in the spring.
  • Lifespan: Quite short-lived, they survive roughly a week as adults.
  • Host Plants: Mainly the Torrey’s Milkvetch plant.

The Mount Charleston Blue relies heavily on these host plants, resulting in a symbiotic relationship that ultimately, plays a significant role in maintaining biodiversity.

Quino Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino)

You’d be lucky to spot a Quino Checkerspot. Once thriving in southern California, this colorful species is now critically endangered due to habitat loss and climate change.

Quino Checkerspot butterfly

Have a look at some features of this special butterfly:

  • Habitat: Quino Checkerspots thrive in California’s open, sunny areas with grassland.
  • Appearance: Like an artistic masterpiece, its wings flaunt patterns of red, white, and black.
  • Size: A petite butterfly, measuring a wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: As caterpillars, they love to munch on dwarf plantain. After metamorphosis, they feed on flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Female Quino lay their eggs on the underside of leaves where the caterpillars can feed after hatching.
  • Lifespan: Their journey from egg to adult lasts one year. Weather depending, adults may live 2 weeks to a month.
  • Host Plants: Plantains (Plantago erecta) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.) are their preferred host plants where females lay eggs.

Endeavors to protect and recover this species are ongoing. Providing it a chance at life is all it needs!

Taylor’s Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori)

Meet the Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly. This species is quite unique in its characteristics. Though small in size, it’s undeniably striking to look at.

Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly

  • Habitat: Originally, you’d find it throughout the Pacific Northwest, but now it’s limited to Oregon, Washington, and one spot in British Columbia.
  • Appearance: With its wings displaying a dazzling pattern of orange, white, and black squares, it surely leaves an impression.
  • Size: Small but not insignificant, it spans around 1.5″ or 3.8 cm.
  • Diet: As a caterpillar, it’s fond of eating lance-leaf plantain. However, the adult prefers flower nectar.
  • Reproduction: Interestingly, a female can lay over 1,000 eggs in her lifetime!
  • Lifespan: Sadly, life is fleeting for the Checkerspot. It lives only one year.
  • Host Plants: It mostly depends on the plantago or Potentilla flower during its larval stage for both food and shelter.

Let’s keep hoping that efforts to save this delightful little creatures prove successful.

Callippe Silverspot (Speyeria callippe callippe)

Have you ever spotted the Callippe Silverspot butterfly? This fascinating creature was once abundant but is now classified as endangered.

Endangered Callippe silverspot butterfly (Speyeria callippe callippe)

  • Habitat: It’s known to reside in the sunny hills of California.
  • Appearance: This butterfly boasts bright orange and black markings. It’s a sight to behold.
  • Size: With a wingspan ranging from 3.75 cm to 6.25 cm (1.5 in to 2.5 in), it’s impressively big.
  • Diet: Adult butterflies feed on nectar, while the caterpillars munch on leaves.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on the host plants, which hatch into larvae after a week.
  • Lifespan: It lives for about a year, but this life is threatened due to habitat loss.
  • Host Plants: Viola pedunculata, or the yellow pansy, is the primary food for Callippe Silverspot larvae.

Now you’re acquainted with the Callippe Silverspot, isn’t it disheartening to know that it’s endangered?

Consider that next time you’re exploring California’s hillside trails.

Bartram’s Hairstreak (Strymon acis bartrami)

The last on our list but not the least significant, we have the Bartram’s Hairstreak, a butterfly species that’s facing an increased risk of extinction.

Bartram's Scrub-Hairstreak, Strymon acis bartrami, female

  • Habitat: This butterfly is native to South Florida, specifically Pine Rockland habitats. This habitat is rare and endangered, just like the butterfly itself.
  • Appearance: Characterized by its muted gray color, tinged with blue, and adorned with black and white spots on the wing edges.
  • Size: These butterflies are relatively small, boasting a wingspan of only 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Diet: The adults sustain on nectar, primarily from herbs and shrubs.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs on new growth of their host plants. The caterpillars feed on the leaves.
  • Lifespan: They typically live for 1 to 2 weeks as adults.
  • Host Plants: The primary host plant is locally known as locust berry or by scientific name; Byrsonima lucida.

Unique and beautiful, the combination of habitat loss and limited host plants puts the Bartram’s Hairstreak at risk.


In conclusion, it’s heartbreaking to see that these 20 butterfly species are on the brink of extinction.

These creatures not only add beauty to our world, but they also play crucial roles in our ecosystem.

Please, leave a comment and let’s discuss what we can do individually or collectively to help these beautiful species recover.

Butterflies   Updated: June 30, 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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *