12 Common Types of Butterflies: Names, Pictures, Identification, Facts, Locations

Content writer Tim Tolka HeadshotWritten by Tim Tolka

Animals | March 28, 2024

Happy woman looking at types of butterflies wondering about the difference between butterfly vs. moth and where to find butterfly pictures, names, in order to learn how to ID butterflies as well as facts about endangered butterflies.

As a beloved insect species, various types of Butterflies often enrapture people with their mixture of bold colors, not to mention their delicate wings.

To humans, they hold a special, meaningful place in nature and have been the topic of interest for hundreds of years.

But, are you aware that there are literally thousands of types of butterflies?

Although the most common can be seen throughout the spring and summer, knowing how to recognize types of butterflies really just involves knowing which characteristics to look for.



An orange butterfly in an oval frame on green background.
  • Family: Papilionoidea
  • Genus: Rhopalocera
  • Common Traits: Six legs, three main body parts such as head, thorax, and abdomen.
  • Diet: Liquid

This guide explores 12 types of butterflies in detail, but also provides pictures and butterfly identification characteristics that anyone can learn, as well as facts, locations, and names for the fluttery insects that are a joy to behold.

Types of Butterflies: Butterfly Species

Butterflies are very diverse; there are several species found across the globe.

From the great Monarch to the bold Swallowtail, every species of butterfly differs with unique characteristics.

Earth is home to about 17,500 species of butterflies that we have discovered, and each has its own distinct set of traits and beauty.1

Butterfly Scientific Name (Butterfly Names)

Lepidoptera includes both butterflies and moths, their nocturnal cousins. Each butterfly species is assigned a scientific name based on the binomial nomenclature system.

The scientific names have the genus and the species, known as the “binomial name.”17

Typically, a genus refers to a category of many different types within a given butterfly family that are closely related, and those different types are called species, making the world of butterfly categorization wonderfully varied and expansive.

Graphics of Butterfly Family showing subgroups Hedylidae (American Moth-Butterfly), Hesperiidae (Skippers), Lycaenidae (Blues, Hairstreaks, Coppers), Nymphalidae (Brush-Footed, Four-Footed), Papilionidae (Swallowtails, Parnassians), Pieridae (Whites, Sulphurs, Allies), and Riodinidae images with a garden in the background.

Of the 750 identified species of butterflies that are native to the United States,3 these creatures can be broadly classified into the following “family” categories.

Refer to the table below for more information about the taxonomy, region, and characteristics of these marvelous species.

(Note that the listing of genus in this table is far from comprehensive, and a full breakdown of genera by family can be located here).18

FamilyCommon NameGenusSpecies (estimated # in the U.S.)LocationCharacteristics
HedylidaeAmerican Moth-ButterflyMacrosoma35North America, Central Mexico, South America (Amazon to Southern Peru)
  • “Moth-like” brown coats
  • Share aspects of traditional butterfly anatomy: structure of eggs mirrors Pieridae and Nymphalidae
  • Have “ears” that are used to detect and escape primary predators (i.e. bats)
HesperiidaeSkippersAbantis, Binghamia, Cobalus, Epargyreus275Northeast U.S., Gulf States (Texas, Florida, Alabama, etc.)
  • Hooked/clubbed antennae
  • Likely to fly short, “erratic” distances
  • Larvae from yucca plants are sold as a delicacy in Mexico and regions of the U.S.
LycaenidaeBlues, Hairstreaks, CoppersAcesina, Brephidium, Chilades, Deloneura150Southern Oregon, Central California
  • Smaller than other species
  • Display ornate and patterned, “hairstreak” underwings
  • Usually do not form a cocoon during metamorphosis
NymphalidaeBrush-Footed, Four-FootedAbrota, Bicyclus, Catagramma, Dryadula209Eastern U.S. (by way of Canada)
  • Known for their hairy forelegs that resemble brushes
  • Have white, yellow, or brown wings with darker markings that help with camouflage
  • Lengthy migration periods
PapilionidaeSwallowtails, ParnassiansArchona, Baronia, Cressida, Euryades31North America (primarily Florida, Southern California, Alaska), Canada
  • Large and colorful species with yellow, green, black, blue, and orange wings
  • Known for “tails” that extend on their hindwings
  • Beat their wings to “balance” while feeding on flower nectar
PieridaeWhites, Sulphurs, AlliesAnteos, Belenois, Colias, Eronia60North America (with most found in Idaho)
  • Mid-sized butterflies with white or orange “sulphur” colored wings
  • Pattern and number of black markings on their wings can signify the butterfly’s sex
  • Frequently found in gardens and known as agricultural pests
RiodinidaeAbisara, Brachyglenis, Calydna, Dicallaneura29Northeast U.S., southern Canada, Central America
  • Named for thin, “metallic” lines found on their wings
  • Species in temperate regions tend to display muted or neutral colors, whereas tropical species may have iridescent blue or green coloring

Lifespan of Butterflies and the Monarch Butterfly Scientific Name

The lifespan of butterflies is influenced by factors such as weather conditions, habitat, and predators.2

Butterflies’ lifespans are all different and totally contingent on which species they are and environmental factors. Usually, the lifespan of a butterfly lasts from a few weeks to several months.

Butterflies endure a cycle that is known as metamorphosis which occurs in four phases. It ultimately begins with the egg stage, where adult butterflies leave their eggs on certain plants.

Graphics of Butterfly Life Cycle showing each of the phases during metamorphosis of butterflies.

Then, their eggs hatch into larvae, which we call caterpillars. These larvae munch on the plant that they were laid upon and go through magnificent growth during this stage.

After, they go into a stage called the pupal stage by shifting forms into a chrysalis or cocoon, which again, depends on the species.

In the chrysalis phase, the journey from a caterpillar to getting to be an adult butterfly occurs. And then finally, the adult butterfly comes out from the chrysalis, its wings expand and dry, and it takes flight.

The lifespan of a butterfly usually refers to the adult stage because the stages before are temporary. The state of the adult butterfly is different within various species and environmental conditions.

For instance, one will see that a percentage of butterflies possess a pretty small adult lifespan that consists of just a few weeks. An example of this is the Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui).

This butterfly usually lives for only two to four weeks as an adult. Yet there are other species, such as the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), that can enjoy adulthood for several months.

It’s amazing because the usual lifespan of a Monarch Butterfly is about six to eight months, yet the migratory generation is able to live up to nine months or longer.3

Take into consideration that the lifespan of butterflies can be based on various factors, like the climate, the accessibility of food, the presence of predation, and changes in the seasons. In regions that have warmer temperatures, butterflies live shorter lives.

It, therefore, makes sense that those in cooler climates may have extended lifespans. To add, species that migrate usually benefit from longer lifespans that are meant to support their long journeys.

To summarize, the cycle of butterflies is always different since there are species that survive for only a few weeks and others thrive for many months.

The length of the adult stage of the butterfly’s lifespan depends on factors like species type, conditions of the environment, and different patterns in migration.

Butterfly Symbolism: What Do Butterflies Symbolize?

Butterflies symbolize different things to different people. They are muses of a sort.

Therefore, humans have attributed various symbolic meanings to these lovely creatures.

Throughout recorded history, butterflies have represented archetypes of freedom and transformation through the stages of their life cycle. To some, they also symbolize rebirth and spiritual evolution, while also symbolizing lightness and fickleness.19

Others have noted parallels between the ephemeral and delicate quality of human development and the metamorphosis of butterfly life cycle. In some ways, butterflies serve as a reminder of the transience and cyclical nature of all life.

The meanings associated with butterfly symbolism vary from fragility and transformation to beauty and spirituality. They have served as muses to artists and poets and as key influences on the belief systems and myth-making of humankind.

For instance, Buddhist wisdom emphasizes themes such as the soul’s evolution and spiritual growth. Some regard the growth of a caterpillar into a butterfly as a direct metaphor and symbol found in nature for this universal process among living beings.

Why are humans so endeared to butterflies? It could be argued that through their metamorphosis from caterpillars to winged creatures, butterflies represent the capacity to transform and transcend the oppressive limitations of their physical being.

Many people share a similar desire to overcome their circumstances and transform into a renewed version of themselves. The butterfly appears on an ancient Roman coin of Augustus, along with a crab.

Scholars believe that the butterfly was associated with Psyche,20 the Greek goddess of the human soul.

The Greek word for butterfly, “psyche”, is also translated as “soul.” Ancient Greek mythology often evoked butterflies to convey the journey of the soul.

Similarly, the Romans equated the flight of butterflies with the flight of the soul from the body to the afterlife.

Painted on the wall of his tomb, Tiger Butterflies accompanied Nabamun, the Egyptian Pharoah, as he went on the journey into the afterlife. These butterflies were a typical feature of Egyptian tombs.

Transformation is seldom a simple process that happens overnight, and butterflies can serve as reminders that positive change can come from periods of growth and instability in the “shape” of life.

Additionally, the depletion of butterfly populations and suitable butterfly habitats due to anthropogenic (man-made) climate change characterizes human relationships with this species in newfound ways.

As “canaries in the coal mine” with altered migration, hibernation, and reproduction patterns, this population serves as a tangible warning of the man-made impact on the ecosystem.

Both extreme ends of weather induced by climate change can disrupt butterflies in noticeable ways. During lower air temperatures, butterflies are prone to lower metabolism and energy consumption when in flight; inversely, consumption and metabolism trend higher when in warmer weather.

Butterfly Identification: How To Identify Butterflies

Butterfly identification can initially be challenging but becomes more enjoyable over time as one learns more about the different species. There are several butterfly species with diverse characteristics including, types of wings and color patterns, which makes it easier for beginner butterfly identification enthusiasts to differentiate butterfly species.

Graphic of Butterfly Identification showing the different parts of a butterfly.

Butterfly watchers and enthusiasts, otherwise known as “lepidopterists,”21 must keep a watchful eye for key distinguishing characteristics of butterfly species. Old-school paperback field guides are highly recommended for beginners, though online resources and fellow butterfly enthusiasts can provide valuable tips for budding hobbyists.

Butterfly Types: Common Butterflies

Some butterflies are more common than others in a given habitat or region.4 Due to their widespread distribution, some species more commonly found around the house include: The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), the Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), and the Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).

Different Types of Butterflies

Butterfly wings are a thing of beauty, elaborate, vividly colorful, and almost hypnotizing in their attractiveness to the human eye. The wings have intricate scales and color schemes that serve different purposes for each species.

The wide colorful wings act as a defense mechanism against natural predators and also keep butterflies cool during hot sunny days.22 The wings are also an important factor when differentiating butterfly species.

Graphic of Types of Butterfly showing ten different types of butterfly including Red Lacewing, Menelaus Blue Morpho, Monarch, Julia Butterfly, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Black-veined white, Brown Butterfly, Black Swallowtail, Green Hairstreak, and Emerald swallowtail or Emerald Peacock.

Wingspan varies widely among species, ranging anywhere from a few centimeters to over 25 centimeters in butterflies of tropical species.

Common Butterfly Wings: Structure and Function

Butterfly wings are beautiful, but butterfly wings have functions way beyond mere aesthetics. Crucially, their wings help them take flight in mass migratory patterns, as well as maintain optimal body temperature and metabolism.

Wing colors and patterns dually serve as communication, observation, and camouflage tools used among different species.

Their wings have a cooling effect that enables butterflies to stand in the sun to garner warmth. The color patterns on the wings are also adaptations for camouflage and help differentiate the species.

Structure of Butterfly Wings: Scales

Butterfly wing colors and patterns are derived from tiny scales containing pigment granules and textures.23 These features produce specific colors or effects, and can even help to defend against predators and natural dangers.

Their scales attach individually, allowing them to break off from spider webs and escape Moth Spiders.

The scientific name of the butterfly and Moth order, Lepidoptera, derives from the Greek word lepidos (“scale”) and ptera (“winged”).24

Compound Eyes

Butterflies have eyes that are made up of facets, and different light-sensitive units in each eye with its own lens and light sensor.

Not only do they look cool, but they enable butterflies to detect motion, color, and UV light that human eyes cannot see.

In addition to compound eyes, butterflies possess other characteristics that help them explore their surroundings. Organs such as antennae and the proboscis aid with taste and smell, allowing them to detect and feed on nectar from the different types of flowers.

Butterflies Versus Moths

Together, butterflies and moths comprise around 165,000 species.24 Effectively, moths are a “catch-all” category for Lepidoptera that are not butterflies.

Even though butterflies and moths are members of the Lepidoptera order, they have subtly different characteristics. A butterfly might have a bulb or club-shaped antennae,25 whereas a moth could have antennae that appear feathery or jagged.

Moth vs. Butterfly graphic showing the differences between moths and butterflies with their antenna, color, body type, activity, resting position, habitat, and pupae.

Throughout their pupal stage, butterflies form into a chrysalis that encloses their head and body. Moths typically will typically swaddle themselves in a silk cocoon.

At the Pupal stage of the development cycle, moths are wrapped in a silk-like cocoon whereas butterflies develop into a chrysalis and wings cover their entire body including the head.

Moths are a sort of catch-all for a large range of species, those that fly when the sun is down, show off subtle patterns, and even those that move about during the day. Moths, overall, get a pretty bad rap compared to butterflies, which is a shame.

Moths have much to recommend them. For starters, moths are way more common.

On average, avid butterfly watchers are 9 times more likely to spot a moth over a butterfly at any given time.

Like the different types of bees, moths are important pollinators and they have a sense of smell that some find remarkable. The Cecropia Moth can smell his mate from up to 7 miles away.26

For those who remain unimpressed, please consider that moths hear through their wings. The contrarian will remind us that butterflies also have this quality, but do they navigate by the light of the moon and the stars?

The answer is no. Only moths do.

Please stay tuned for the FAQs where the issue will be explored in more depth.

Functions of Butterfly Wings

Flying is arguably the most important function of butterfly wings. The wings have a larger volume compared to the body to enable flying.

Regardless of how fragile they appear to the human eye, butterfly wings have blood vessels and a network of thoracic muscles.

Butterflies have a unique wing motion and appear to make a shape that closely resembles an “8” when they fly. Their unique wing movement differentiates butterflies from birds because birds have a regular up-and-down wing movement.

The diverse patterns and color schemes on butterfly wings provide a camouflage that is essential for butterfly survival. The camouflage makes it difficult for butterfly predators to spot them, which is an intriguing natural adaptation mechanism.

  • Defense reaction: The wings of these creatures serve a role in certain defense mechanisms.
    There is an explanation as to why some butterflies have evolved to wear a warning that they are toxic to predators.24
    These colors are supposed to serve to caution these animals since some predators that have previously eaten toxic butterflies remember the experience. Also, it’s interesting to note that sometimes, during mid-flight, butterflies may use specific distraction tactics by performing flashy movements, reflecting sunlight, and creating visual confusion to disorient predators
  • Communication: Butterfly wings also employ the role of communication devices. They do this by utilizing certain wing movements and patterns to “talk” to other butterflies, as they fly and rest

Types of Butterflies and Their Meanings

Here is the list of the different types of butterflies along with their meanings.

1. Red Lacewing Butterfly

  • Animal Common Name: Red Lacewing
  • Animal Scientific Name: Cethosia biblis
  • Characteristics: Bright red or orange wings with white and black markings
  • Family: Nymphallidae
  • Genus: Cethosia
  • Native Habitat: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
Side profile of a Red Lacewing butterfly on a leaf showing red, orange, white, and black hues on its wings.

(Image: SHAWSHANK6632)

Because it has the color red, naturally the Red Butterfly is said to demonstrate the qualities of passion, love, and vitality. Its red color shows intense emotions and is meant to aid as a reminder to hold onto the happiness and excitement of life.

The presence of a Red Butterfly may be a symbol of energy and enthusiasm.

Top shot of a Menelaus Blue Morpho Butterfly on a flower showing its black and blue wings.

(Image: Efraimstochter36)

  • Native Habitat: Central and South America

2. Black and Blue Butterfly (Menelaus Blue Morpho)

  • Animal Common Name: Menelaus Blue Morpho
  • Animal Scientific Name: Morpho menelaus
  • Characteristics: Black and blue iridescent wings, known as a rare species
  • Family: Morphinae (subfamily of Nymphalidae)
  • Genus: Morpho

The Blue and Black Butterfly is a marvel to watch, these colors stimulate elusiveness and resilience amidst hardships. Watching this butterfly gives a sense of encouragement to persevere through life’s challenges and learn how to adapt to our environment.

3. Orange Butterfly (Julia Butterfly)

  • Animal Common Name: Julia Butterfly
  • Animal Scientific Name: Dryas iulia
  • Characteristics: Bright orange coloring with a large wingspan
  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Dryas
  • Native Habitat: Brazil, Southern U.S. (Florida, Texas)
Top shot of Julia butterfly on a leaf showing its wide wingspan with bright orange color.

(Image: manfredrichter37)

The Orange Butterfly meaning is vigor and freedom, it brings out a majestic aura of courage and liberation. It encourages boldness in pursuit of self-improvement and new beginnings.

Monarch butterfly on an orange and yellow flower showing the butterfly's wings with a combination of orange and black with a dots of white.

(Image: PublicDomainPictures38)

  • Native Habitat: North America

4. Orange and Black Butterfly (Monarch)

  • Animal Common Name: Monarch
  • Animal Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
  • Characteristics: Black, white and orange pattern, most recognizable pollinator of North American butterflies
  • Family: Dananiae (subfamily of Nymphalidae)
  • Genus: Danaus

In the Middle Ages, the Black and Orange Butterfly is believed to carry the souls of departed loved ones and spirits that had left Earth, imbuing the species with both spiritual and symbolic significance. They have historically symbolized life transition and the start of new beginnings.5

The Monarch Butterfly is the most popular because of the colorful wing patterns that unfold following their metamorphosis. The scientific species’ name is (Danaus plexippus) which means sluggish metamorphosis.11

5. Yellow Butterfly (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)

  • Animal Common Name: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Animal Scientific Name: Papilio glaucus
  • Characteristics: Resemble Monarchs with yellow coloring and black or blue coloring on hindwings
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papillio
  • Native Habitat: Eastern United States, Canada
Side shot of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on a purple flower, with wings that has a combination of black and yellow colors and a splash of blue on the hind wings.

(Image: teresad7233)

Though males of this species are frequently given the misnomer of “Yellow Monarch Butterfly” for their resemblance to their Danaus plexippus counterparts,11 the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail belongs to the Papilionidae family and is a widely found North American species.6

In general, Yellow Butterflies are said to symbolize happiness and good prospects for those who come upon them.

From an evolutionary perspective, yellow is a universal signal of danger to other members of the animal kingdom, and Yellow Butterflies are no exception to the rule.

For instance, some yellow-colored Birdwing Butterflies of the Swallowtail family are known to accumulate a toxic type of acid via their diet of pipevine and birthwort (known as aristolochic acid) that can store in the butterfly’s tissues and poison predators who consume them.7

Close up view of Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on a cluster of yellow flowers, showing a combination of yellow and black colored wings.

(Image: paulbr7539)

6. Yellow and Black Butterfly (Tiger Swallowtail)

  • Animal Common Name: Tiger Swallowtail
  • Animal Scientific Name: Papilio glaucus
  • Characteristics: Black striped wings with yellow background, black striped tail
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Native Habitat: East of the Mississippi and the Great Plains and Northern Mexico

The Yellow Black Butterfly is a mixture of both the positive energy of yellow and the grounding nature of black. It is a symbol of the following things: balance, transformation, and personal growth.

This butterfly’s presence can be a small reminder to us to find harmony between one’s aspirations and the practical aspects of life, allowing for personal transformation and inner growth.

7. Butterfly Black and White (Black Veined White)

  • Animal Common Name: Black-Veined White
  • Animal Scientific Name: Aporia crataegi
  • Characteristics: White or cream-colored wings with small black dots
  • Family: Pieridae
  • Genus: Aporia
  • Native Habitat: Northern European Continent, previously in the British Isles
Side profile of Black Veined White butterfly on a purple flower, showing transparent wings with black veins and antennae with yellow tips.

(Image: Erik_Karits40)

These butterflies were previously plentiful in the British Isles. They were known to frequent hamlets with blackthorn trees around London.

Today, unlike the black and white bee, the Black and White Butterfly is very rarely seen in the UK.

Top shot of Emerald Swallowtail or Emerald Peacock on a leaf, showing its black and green colored wings and wingspan.

(Image: SHAWSHANK6641)

8. The Black and Green Butterfly (Emerald Swallowtail)

  • Animal Common Name: Emerald Swallowtail or Emerald Peacock
  • Animal Scientific Name: Papilio palinurus
  • Characteristics: Wings have green streaks against a black background
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Native Habitat: South East Asia, Southern Canada to Northern Mexico

They are among the fastest flying butterflies and are popular among farming enthusiasts who rear them inside greenhouses for beautification. During their caterpillar stage of the development cycle, they closely resemble plants in the Citrus family.

Their Latin name means the navigator, it is worth noting that the navigator of boat in The Aeneid poem by Virgil was named Palinurus, which explains why the butterfly is referred to as the navigator.

9. The Light Green Colored Butterfly (Green Hairstreak)

  • Animal Common Name: Green Hairstreak
  • Animal Scientific Name: Callophrys rubi
  • Characteristics: Bright green and fuzzy with yellow marks along the back
  • Family: Lyncaenidae
  • Genus: Callophrys
  • Native Habitat: Grassland, woodland clearings, heathland; widespread across the UK
Side view of Green Hairstreak butterfly on a dried leaf, showing its green wings and hairy body.

(Image: Erik_Karits34)

The butterfly mostly basks in the sun and is considered to be shy compared to other butterflies.8 They often migrate during spring season and commonly fight for territory at the beginning of summer.

The males start fighting for territory after immigrating.

Closeup of Black Swallowtail butterfly on a yellow flowers, showing black body and black wings with blue and orange colors close to the edge.

(Image: paulbr7542)

10. Black Butterflies (Black Swallowtail)

  • Animal Common Name: Black Swallowtail
  • Animal Scientific Name: Papilio polyxenes
  • Characteristics: Large black wings with prominent tails displaying blue and yellow dots
  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Papilio
  • Native Habitat: Forested regions, SE Asia, Southern Canada, Western US, and Northern Mexico

Black Swallowtail Butterflies will come to a garden in search of particular plants,3 like dill or fennel. The females are blue and the males who will often be seen defending their perceived territory are yellow.

The caterpillars like to inhabit the plants and eat them. The caterpillars have a defense mechanism that they are bitter-tasting to predators.

Black butterfly symbolism is mystery, transformation, and profound change. Their aesthetic encourages introspection, moving on from the past to a new start.

Black butterflies are also believed to possess transformative power over darkness.9

Unfortunately, in the Western world, black is associated with black luck. Regardless, black butterflies are perceived as a bold archetype of butterfly symbolism, especially related to transformation.

And like butterflies of other colors, black butterflies indicate the arrival of a shift or alteration of the previous order.

They also stand for the journey of enlightenment. If you witness a black butterfly, whether in real life or in a dream, this means you could be on the verge of going on a journey.

The growth and therefore change of butterflies in its different stages is perceived to be a metaphor of the transformation of the spirit. In some Eastern cultures, the different stages of a butterfly’s changes stand for enlightenment after a long journey.

Just as a butterfly endures darkness inside its cocoon before emerging in its perfect form, it is thought that the human soul must go through certain stages that shed lessons and reincarnations to achieve enlightenment.

In the Christian religion, death and the afterlife are an integral part of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ died and was resurrected to the afterlife which brings in the aspect of transformation in the Christian faith.

Butterflies were in the past sculpted on gravestones as a symbol of transformation to signify that the deceased has begun a new life in heaven. Black butterflies signify eternal life in the afterlife.

When a butterfly is fully developed, all it does is sustain life, which symbolizes reproduction toward evolution sustainability.

A fully developed male butterfly mates with several females and dies shortly after the mating period. On the other hand, the female adult butterfly dies shortly after laying eggs that were fertilized during the mating period.

This brings about the aspect of species sustainability and implies that reproduction is an integral part of life.

The result of this is that the butterfly shows us to chase great things that will give us enlightenment. Another thing black butterflies are tied to is a certain secret wisdom, which is rare and only possessed by those who are determined and fearless as they pursue truth.

There is also a symbolic meaning of black butterflies that are shaped by them showing up in dreams or specific cultures. For example, if a black butterfly is witnessed in a dream, this often means that there is trouble within the family.

Yet in other areas of the world, specific black butterfly species hold their symbolic significance. The Black Swallowtail is a butterfly of abundance, while the Atala signifies self-love, and the Common Green Birdwing is about seeking knowledge.

To sum up, black butterflies on their own happen to be rich in symbols. This translates into meaning that even though they are black, they are many times seen as positive signs of transformation, growth, and seeing the truth.

They persuade us to fight for change, be ourselves, and find wisdom in our personal journeys.

11. Black and Yellow Butterfly (Milkweed Butterfly)

  • Animal Common Name: Milkweed Butterfly or Monarch
  • Animal Scientific Name: Danaus plexippus
  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Danaus
  • Native Habitat: Western North America and Mexico
Side profile of Milkweed or Monarch butterfly on a purple flower, showing wings with a color combination of orange and black with dotted white.

(Image: cristinaMeade43)

The Black and Yellow Butterfly signifies endurance and strength amidst adversities. It encourages us to stay persistent and focus on the positives in our lives whilst working toward overcoming the negatives.

The color combination of black and yellow demonstrates triumph from adversities.

Top shot of Common Brown butterfly on dried leaves and branches, showing its wingspan and orange and brown wings.

(Image: Donald Hobern35)

12. Brown Butterfly

  • Animal Common Name: Brown Butterfly
  • Animal Scientific Name: Heteronympha merope
  • Family: Nymphalidae
  • Genus: Heteronympha
  • Native Habitat: Urban areas, forests and woodlands in the Eastern US, especially Appalachia

Similar to Orange and Black Butterflies, Brown Butterflies (Satyrinae) are widely regarded as messengers from the spiritual realm and reflective of the natural world.10 Their brown coats signify a sense of groundedness and communion with the Earth and readily serve as a highly adaptable evolutionary tool through camouflage.

What Is the Difference Between Butterflies and Moths?

Almost all butterflies are out and about during the day whereas most moths are active at night.

One of the main distinctions is that butterflies have clubbed antennae, and moths have simple filaments with tapered ends or a set of bristles like a leaf or a comb, or the ear of a fox.

How Do Butterflies Communicate?

Yes, butterflies communicate with pheromones and physical actions. They also use their wings as signals.

A University of Florida researcher found that Longwing Butterflies produce a series of clicks when they are close together. This led to the realization that some butterfly species spend most of their time communicating with each other with these barely audible clicks.

Interestingly, the researcher, Mirian Hay-Roe,27 didn’t set out to discover that butterflies communicate, but she heard them clicking. The Blue-and-White Longwing Butterfly spends the night sheltered in trees with hundreds of their fellow Longwings.

The clicks were recorded both at night when resting and during the day when they were chasing intruding butterflies of other species out of their territory.

Do Butterflies Sleep?

They most certainly do. They sleep holding their wings upright and with their eyes open (because they don’t have eyelids).28

Oftentimes, butterflies will rest in groups (a practice known as “roosting”) for varied amounts of time; some might rest for a night, others for an entire winter season, depending on migratory patterns.

How Many Types of Butterflies Are There?

At least 17,500 species have been identified in the world.29 There are around 3,000 known species of the Hesperiidae or “Skipper” family of smaller, fast-flying butterflies.

There are 5,000 species of Lycaenidae. Nymphalidae or the “Brush-Footed” Butterflies number in the 5,000s worldwide.

The “Swallowtail” or Pailionidae butterflies number only 600 species, while the Pieridae family has 1,000 species known for their yellow and white colors.

There are 1,000 species of Riodinidae which are referred to as Metalmarks.

Related Reading: How Many Types of Flowers Are There? Identify Flowers By Petal, Color & Zone

How Long Do Butterflies Live?

Monarchs are some of the longest-living butterflies, with up to 12 months of life.30 However, most adult butterflies live only around 4 weeks.

The stage of the adult butterfly is the fourth stage of its life cycle from egg to larva, larva to pupa (or chrysalis), and from pupa to adult.28

How Many and What Species of Butterflies Are Threatened or Endangered?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified at least 20 butterfly species pending either threatened or endangered status under the Endangered Species Act.11 Some of these species include the British large blue butterfly named, the Monarch Butterfly, the Crystal Skipper, and Schaus’ Swallowtail.12

To clarify, an “endangered species” is a species that is increasingly on the brink of becoming extinct in the near future if there are insufficient human efforts toward protecting its sustainability. The United States legislated the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

The act provides a legal framework for policymakers to collaborate with environmental advocacy groups and enthusiasts toward taking action to protect living species against extinction.

In some instances, it is challenging to distinguish between endangered and threatened species. There have been instances where government agencies and butterfly advocacy enthusiasts have clashed due to the lack of standard criteria for determining when a butterfly species can be considered endangered and when it can be considered threatened.

Closeup of Red Lacewing butterfly showing its wings with a color combination of orange, black, and white.

(Image: Ralphs_Fotos44)

Among the ways through which government agencies and advocacy groups can be more effective in conservation efforts is by ensuring they maintain sufficient numbers of qualified personnel among them.

For instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service petitioned to have the Monarch Butterfly updated from a threatened species to an endangered species status in 2020 and failed to achieve it because they lacked sufficient resources and personnel to support the species conservation efforts.13 However, they were allowed a 4 year period to create the right structures and petition again in 2024.

It is also important to understand that species conservation effort requires international collaboration. The Migratory Monarch Butterfly was categorized as an endangered species in 2022 following a petition by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that sits in Europe.

The basis of the petition was the fact the Migratory Monarch Butterfly was severely vulnerable to extreme weather conditions precipitated by global warming activities.

However, the Europe-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the Migratory Monarch to their “Red List” of the Endangered Species in July 2022.14 Citing the impending threats of climate change and habitat destruction, the Union will continue to study and monitor conditions of extreme weather and ecosystem erosion that render this species uniquely vulnerable to extinction.

What Are Some of the Factors That Contribute to Butterfly Endangerment?

Critical factors observed include the use of harmful insecticides in agricultural practice, the impact of global warming such as freak weather, and the increase of invasive species populations across the world.15

Human factors contribute the most due to activities such as increased deforestation to create agricultural land, over-reliance on pollutant fossil fuels, and uncontrolled urban development that destroys natural habitats.16

All these factors are critical because of how they individually break the butterfly development cycle at different stages.

To mitigate these effects, concerned butterfly enthusiasts should take note of their personal use of pesticides and gardening chemicals, such as Roundup,31 that are known to pose a danger to butterflies and other animal species.

Aside from protecting endangered types of butterflies, they can also take action to reduce your individual carbon footprint and support laws and policies that regulate fossil fuels and the carbon emissions of corporations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Types of Butterflies

What Is a Group of Butterflies Called?

The official name of a group of butterflies is a Kaleidoscope.

How Many Wings Does a Butterfly Have?

Moths and butterflies both have 4 wings.

Is Butterfly an Insect? Which Is Faster Insect, a Butterfly or a Moth?

Yes, butterflies are insects. The world’s fastest insect is indeed the Hawk Moth which can attain a flying speed of 50 mph.27

How Big Is the Biggest Butterfly in the World?

The largest butterfly in the world is the Goliath Birdwing from New Guinea which has a wingspan of 11 inches or 280 mm.

What Association Do Butterflies Have With Plants?

Butterflies have a complex relationship with plants,28 sometimes playing a vital role in the reproductive cycle of certain plants whose nectar attracts butterflies. Meanwhile, certain plants chosen by the adult female butterfly supply the first meal of her hatching eggs.

Why Are Butterflies Called Butterflies?

Butterflies are called as such because of their excretions having similar characteristics of that of butter.

Learn More About Types of Butterflies


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3Smithsonian Institution. (2023). BugInfo Butterflies in the United States. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved June 7, 2023, from <https://www.si.edu/spotlight/buginfo/butterflyus>

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11King, S. (2021, April 18). Identification of Common Butterflies – Bandelier National Monument (U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved June 7, 2023, from <https://www.nps.gov/band/learn/nature/id-of-common-butterflies.htm>

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13Chandler, R. (2019, February 25). 10 Endangered Butterflies and Their Host Plants. Save Our Monarchs. Retrieved June 19, 2023, from <https://www.saveourmonarchs.org/blog/10-endangered-butterflies>

14Haddad, N. (2019). The Last Butterflies. Animal Welfare Institute. Retrieved June 19, 2023, from <https://awionline.org/awi-quarterly/winter-2019/last-butterflies>

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16Torres, P. (2023). The Disappearance of Butterflies | Saving Earth. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 19, 2023, from <https://www.britannica.com/explore/savingearth/the-disappearance-of-butterflies>

17Caruso, N. J. (2023). Classification of Life. University of Hawaii at Manoa. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from <https://manoa.hawaii.edu/exploringourfluidearth/biological/what-alive/classification-life>

18National Library of Medicine. (2023). Taxonomy browser (Danaus plexippus). NCBI. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?id=13037&lvl=0>

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22Wet Tropics Management Authority. (2023). Butterfly defence strategies. Wet Tropics Management Authority. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from <https://www.wettropics.gov.au/site/user-assets/docs/butterflydefencestrategies.pdf>

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24Florida Museum. (2023). Butterflies and Moths. Florida Museum. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from <https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2017/02/Butterfly-Educators-Guide.pdf>

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32Red lacewing Butterfly,Insect image. Photo by SHAWSHANK66. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/red-lacewing-butterfly-insect-red-1394296/>

33Eastern tiger swallowtail. Photo by Zoeysmom. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/eastern-tiger-swallowtail-butterfly-6984764/>

34Green hairstreak. Photo by Erik_Karits. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/green-hairstreak-callophrys-rubi-5744044/>

35Heteronympha merope Photo by Donald Hobern / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Resized and Changed Format. From Flickr <https://flic.kr/p/8TZmNM>

36Blue morpho, Butterfly, Flower image. Photo by Efraimstochter. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/blue-morpho-butterfly-flower-784979/>

37Dryas iulia, Butterfly, Butterflies image. Photo by manfredrichter. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/dryas-iulia-butterfly-butterflies-4339910/>

38Monarch, Butterfly, Flower image. Photo by PublicDomainPictures. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/monarch-butterfly-flower-zinnia-18140/>

39Tiger swallowtail. Photo by paulbr75. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/tiger-swallowtail-butterfly-1580764/>

40Black-veined white. Photo by Erik_Karits. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/black-veined-white-butterfly-flower-6395413/>

41Emerald swallowtail. Photo by SHAWSHANK66. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/emerald-swallowtail-butterfly-insect-1394288/>

42Black swallowtail. Photo by paulbr75. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/black-swallowtail-butterfly-1548393/>

43Monarch, Milkweed, Caterpillar image. Photo by cristinaMeade. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/monarch-milkweed-caterpillar-3809303/>

44Red lacewing butterfly. Photo by Ralphs_Fotos. Pixabay. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://pixabay.com/photos/red-lacewing-butterfly-butterfly-7035226/>

45Species Information Image: Butterfly Photo by Sean Stratton. Resized and Changed Format. Unsplash. Retrieved January 12, 2024 from <https://unsplash.com/photos/shallow-focus-orange-and-black-butterfly-lTE8p6u0b1Y>