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Statewide Homegrown 3

Identify the Most Common Butterflies in Arkansas


Arkansas is geologically diverse, which creates excellent habitats for many species of butterflies. You can find different species throughout the mountains, lowlands and many river systems in the state. In the natural state, there are about 170 different species of butterflies. In 2007, Arkansas designated the Diana fritillary as its state butterfly, making it the 26th state to have a state butterfly.

Since there are so many species throughout the state, here are ten of the most common butterflies you can see in Arkansas!

Roy Cohutta, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Diana Fritillary (Speyeria diana)

Wingspan: 3 7/16 to 4 7/16 inches

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance: Males have broad orange borders at the edges of their wings. When they close their wings, they are a burnt orange color. Females have a dark blue coloration on the side of their wings and can look dusty grayish. The females of this species of butterfly are larger than the males.

Diet: Flower nectar and dung

Habitat: Sunny wooded and forest areas or edges

Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Wingspan: 5.1 cm to 7.3 cm

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance: Wings are an orangish-brown with black patches and white spots. When they close their wings, you can see gray, black and brown marbled patterns.

Diet: Nectar from plants like thistles and ironweed.

Habitat: Open areas like fields, gardens and dunes.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Wingspan: 3 ½ to 4 inches

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance: You can see the orange with black veins when Monarchs open their wings. The margins on their wings have white spots. Sometimes the back wings can look yellowish at the tips. You can still see the black veins when their wings are closed.

Diet: Nectar from milkweed or other plants from the area

Habitat: During warmer months, open areas such as fields and meadows. In the winter, they prefer higher altitudes.

Zygy, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Common Buckeye (Junoia coenia)

Wingspan: 1.65 – 2.8 inches

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance:  All four wings are brown and have two eyespots on the main wings that are bright orange. The secondary wings also have orange eyespots. When they close their wings, you can see a brown or tan coloration, but they can turn reddish during cooler months.

Diet: Flower nectar like sunflower, tickseed, chickory, etc.

Habitat: Open areas and fields

Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org, CC BY 3.0 US, via Wikimedia Commons

Viceroy (Limenitis Archippus)

Wingspan: 2.6-3 inches

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance: The dorsal side of the Viceroy’s wings has an orange base with black patterns. On the secondary wings, you can see a single row of white dots by the black margin band. The wings are a mirrored image when they are closed.

Diet: Flower nectar

Habitat: Humid areas with trees like a meadow or marsh

Zeynel Cebeci, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Wingspan: 7/8 to 1 3/8 inches

Family: Lycaenidae

Appearance: The American Copper is just how it sounds, a vibrant copper (reddish or tan tint). They have eight or nine brown spots along the edge of their opened wings. When their wings are closed, it has the same pattern but duller.

Diet: Flower nectar

Habitat: Forested clearings, urban waste grounds and downlands.

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Wingspan: 3.1- 5 ½  inches

Family: Papilionidae

Appearance: Males have yellow wings with four stripes in black. Whereas females could have yellow wings or fully black. The edge of their wings has blue spots like a border.

Diet: Flower nectar like milkweed, butterfly bush, honeysuckle, lilac, etc.

Habitat: Urban parks, woodlands, rivers, creeks, gardens and roadsides.

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Wingspan: 1 ¾  to 2.63 inches

Family: Hesperiidae

Appearance: The base of their wings is brownish black and has markings of orange and yellow. Males have two black marks in the middle, females do not.

Diet: Flower nectar

Habitat: Open lands with sunlight, forest edges, fields and waterways.

Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis Pegala)

Wingspan: 1 ¾ – 3 inches

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance: Wings are fully brown with two yellow eyespots. On the lower wings, there are small eyespots.

Diet: Flower nectar and rotting fruit

Habitat: Large, open fields that have plenty of sunlight.

Badics, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta)

Wingspan: 1 ¾ – 2 ½ inches

Family: Nymphalidae

Appearance: A base wing color of black with an orange band on the outer surface of the hind wings. There are also red and white patches on the tip of the ventral side of the wings.

Diet: Sap from trees, flowering plants and bird droppings.

Habitat: Moist areas like woods and fields, along with parks and marshes.

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Kayleigh Tritschler is fresh out of college with a Bachelor's degree in Public Relations from Harding University. City girl turned small town when she stayed in Searcy, AR after college to begin her career as a Marketing Coordinator at First Security Bank. Kayleigh is a book hoarder and spends some of her free time reading said books or buying new ones to collect dust.

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3 responses to “Identify the Most Common Butterflies in Arkansas”

  1. Joe says:

    Unfortunately, your “monarch” photo also shows a viceroy. The easiest way to tell is to look for the black band on the hindwing, which the monarch lacks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viceroy_%28butterfly%29#/media/File:Monarch_Viceroy_Mimicry_Comparison.jpg

  2. […] Want to know more about butterflies in Arkansas? A Time for Butterflies.  For more information on the most common butterflies in Arkansas, click here. […]

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