They are highly sensitive indicators of the health of the environment and play crucial roles in the food chain as well as being pollinators of plants.

Identify a butterfly

Spotted a butterfly but not sure which one? Use our handy ID page to find out.

A-Z of butterflies

If you know which butterfly you would like more information on, use our butterfly A to Z.

Gardening for butterflies

Butterflies will visit any garden, however small if they can feed on nectar plants. A well thought out garden can attract more than 20 species of butterfly.

Learn more about butterflies

The State of Britain’s Butterflies

Read our influential report, with results from our world-leading recording and monitoring schemes.

Why butterflies matter

Find out why butterflies are so important.

Recording butterflies

Butterflies are extremely valuable indicators of the state of the environment. Butterfly Conservation runs schemes to record and monitor them which involve over 15,000 volunteer recorders.

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BugInfo Butterflies

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    Numbers of species. Due to their bright colors and visits to flowers, butterflies are the most familiar of insects to humans. There are about 17,500 species of butterflies in the world, and around 750 species in the United States.

    Distinctive characteristics. Butterflies (and moths) are the only group of insects that have scales covering their wings, although some butterflies have reduced scales. They differ from other insects also by their ability to coil up their proboscis.

    Immatures. Caterpillars are the names given to the larvae of both butterflies and moths. They are usually very distinctive, and in some cases may be identified more easily than the adults. When they are developing, their skin may be shed four or more times, with each molt often changing the coloration and appearance of the caterpillar. They eat voraciously to transform plant material into tissues that they will need for metamorphosis.

    Plant associations. Butterflies are commonly associated with plants, and the relationship is sometimes complex. Immatures, with few exceptions, eat plants, and therefore may be considered harmful to the plants. However, butterflies are very important to many plants that are dependent upon flower-visiting insects for cross-pollination. Most butterfly caterpillars eat one, or sometimes several, related species of plants. Usually the choice is made by the adult female when depositing eggs. Adults usually feed on nectar from flowers of plants, although many butterflies feed instead on rotting fruit, dung, etc., especially in the tropics.

    Migration. Butterfly migration is best exemplified by the Monarch, which is widely known to migrate in the fall to overwintering sites in California and Mexico. But in the United States, several other butterfly species engage in lesser migration distances. Some of these are the Buckeye, the Painted Lady, the Purple Wing, the Great Southern White, the Cloudless Sulphur, and the Little Sulphur.

    Wing colors in butterflies appear in two types, pigment and structural, frequently combined in one individual. Pigment colors are familiar in paints, dyes, and inks, and are defined as specific substances with definite chemical composition. Structural colors are instead produced in a physical manner, similar to a rainbow. Morpho butterflies are the usual example of butterflies with structural color.

    Vision. The vision of butterflies appears to be excellent, especially within short distances. They are able to fly with precision in areas of many obstacles.

    Mating Behavior. Females are usually able to engage in mating on the day of emergence, but males do not normally mate for several days. Courtship rituals vary widely among species.

    Classification. Butterflies are currently, with some arguments, placed into the following six families:

    Hesperiidae. Known as «Skippers,» containing relatively small, fast-flying species. About 3,000 worldwide species.

    Lycaenidae. Blues, Hairstreaks and Coppers. Colors and patterns of sexes often differ. Over 5,000 world species.

    Nymphalidae. Known as «Brush-footed» butterflies, contains many subfamilies. There are some 5,000 worldwide species.

    Papilionidae. Known as «Swallowtail, butterflies, most species have prominent «tails.» Some 600 species in the world.

    Pieridae. Known as «Yellows and Whites, they have those colors predominantly. More than 1,000 worldwide species.

    Riodinidae. Known as metalmarks, are sometimes placed in the Family Lycaenidae. About 1,000 species in the world.

    Selected References:

    • Carter, David. 1992. Butterflies and Moths (Eyewitness Handbooks). Dorling Kindersley, Inc., New York.
    • Opler, P. A. and Krizek, G. O. 1984. Butterflies East of the Great Plains. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
    • Opler, P. A. and Malikul, V. 1992. A Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
    • Pyle, R. M. 1981. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
    • Scott, J. A. 1986. The Butterflies of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.

    Prepared by the Department of Systematic Biology, Entomology Section,
    National Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with Public Inquiry Services,
    Smithsonian Institution


    Garden Trees That Attract Butterflies

    Sources of Nectar

    japatino / Getty Images

    One way to invite butterflies to your garden is to plant flowering trees. The adults will visit and dine on the nectar, carrying away pollen with them and pollinating other plants as they go. These 11 species all feature nectar-rich blossoms that will entice butterflies.

    Black Willow

    Derek Hudgins / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    • Latin Name:Salix nigra
    • Family: Salicaceae
    • Other Common Names: Swamp willow, Gooding willow, scythe-leaved willow, western black willow, Gulf black willow, and southwestern black willow
    • Native to: Eastern North America and Mexico
    • USDA Zones: 3 through 8
    • Height: 10 to 148 feet tall, depending on location
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The black willow is an American tree that will work well in moist locations. It can either be a shrub or tree depending on the growing conditions and health.

    These butterflies like black willow nectar:

    • Brown elfin (Callophrys augustinus)
    • Compton tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum)
    • Henry’s elfin (Callophrys henrici)
    • Hoary elfin (Callophrys polios)
    • Northern pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon)


    Shelly Havens / Flickr / Public Domain

    • Latin Name:Prunus virginiana
    • Family: Rosaceae
    • Other Common Names: Bitter-cherry, Virginia bird cherry, bitter-berry, and western chokecherry
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA Zones: 2 through 7
    • Height: 20 to 30 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The sprays of pretty white flowers serve up nectar for butterflies and bees. The fruit that results from pollination is a tart drupe that is sweetened and cooked for use in fruit preserves. This species is poisonous to horses, goats, and cows.

    The chokecherry will attract butterflies like:

    • American lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
    • Silvery blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)

    Eastern Redbud

    Eric Kilby / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    • Latin Name:Cercis canadensis
    • Family: Fabaceae
    • Other Common Names: Redbud and Judas tree
    • Native to: Eastern and Midwestern United States
    • USDA Zones: 4 through 9
    • Height: 20 to 30 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    One of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring (even before its leaves pop out) is the exquisite eastern redbud. The tree becomes covered with pink blossoms that will bring bees and butterflies to your garden.

    Many butterflies visit the eastern redbud for sustenance. They include:

    • Brown elfin (Callophrys augustinus)
    • Dreamy duskywing (Erynnis icelus)
    • Dusky azure (Celastrina nigra)
    • Eastern pine elfin (Callophrys niphon)
    • Gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
    • Juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)
    • Juvenal’s duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis)
    • Silvery blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)
    • Sleepy duskywing (Erynnis brizo)
    • Spring azure (Celastrina ladon)
    • Zebra swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

    Flowering Dogwood

    Raita Futo / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    • Latin Name:Cornus florida
    • Family: Cornaceae
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 5 through 9
    • Height: 15 to 40 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The blossoms on the flowering dogwood come in shades of red, white, or pink. Flowering dogwood, with its spreading crown of long-lasting blossoms, is also spectacular in fall when it produces red fruits and scarlet leaves.

    You will see these butterflies on the flowering dogwood:

    • American snout (Libytheana carinenta)
    • Banded hairstreak (Satyrium calanus)
    • Question mark (Polygonia interrogationis)
    • White M hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album)
    • White admiral or red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis)

    River Birch

    Katja Schulz / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    • Latin Name:Betula nigra
    • Family: Betulaceae
    • Other Common Names: Black birch, water birch, and red birch
    • Native to: Eastern United States
    • USDA Zones: 4 through 9
    • Height: 40 to 70 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    River birch is a wonderful flowering tree for wetter areas. Other beneficial aspects of the tree, besides being a nectar source, include its multiple trunks and peeling brown bark, both of which attract and support wildlife.

    The northern pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon) will visit the flowers of the river birch.


    Dan Keck / Flickr/ Public Domain

    • Latin Name:Sassafras albidum
    • Family: Lauraceae
    • Other Common Names: Silky sassafras, red sassafras, and white sassafras
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 4 through 9
    • Height: 30 to 60 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Sassafras used to be a major component of root beer. The leaves are also dried and ground up to make a spice called filé powder for use in gumbo. Sassafras produces small fruits that attract birds and has spectacular autumn colors.

    This tree provides butterfly food for:

    • American lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
    • King’s hairstreak (Satyrium kingi)


    Katja Schulz / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    • Latin Name:Oxydendrum arboreum
    • Family: Ericaceae
    • Other Common Names: Sorrel tree, lily of the valley tree, and sorreltree
    • Native to: Eastern United States
    • USDA Zones: 5 through 9
    • Height: 20 to 75 feet tall depending on location
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The sourwood tree bears sprays of pretty white flowers during the summer and bright red leaves in autumn. This tree is also liked by bees.

    Sourwood provides butterfly food for:

    • Edwards’ hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii)
    • King’s hairstreak (Satyrium kingi)
    • White M hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album)

    Staghorn Sumac

    Robert Taylor / Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

    • Latin Name:Thus typhina
    • Family: Anacardiaceae
    • Other Common Names: Velvet sumac and vinegar tree
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA Zones: 4 through 8
    • Height: 15 to 25 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    The staghorn sumac is a small tree (or large shrub) with open branches and hairy stems that resemble real stag horns. In addition to spring flowers, it also produces fuzzy red fruits that attract birds. The staghorn does tend to form suckers, so use this where it can spread or cut out the suckers as they appear.

    Staghorn sumac will invite these butterfly species to sip on nectar:



    The monarch (Danaus plexippus), Karner blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), Quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino), Saint Francis’ satyr (Neonympha mitchellii francisci) and Oregon silverspot (Speyeria zerene hippolyta) butterflies are all important species for Defenders because of their imperiled status.

    Each species is reliant on specific plants or plant families as hosts for their eggs and caterpillars. As the world warms, those host plants may begin to move northward, resulting in longer migrations or even moving plants outside of the temperature envelope of the butterflies and intensifying storms can blow butterflies off course. Pesticides harm species like butterflies even though they are not the target, and overuse of these chemicals destroys important habitats.

    Human development is threatening migratory and non-migratory butterflies by fragmenting migration pathways and destroying habitats. Border barriers and other high walls can also block migrations because species like the Quino checkerspot only fly a few feet off the ground.

    Defenders works endlessly to ensure that Congress settles on a Farm Bill that maintains conservation funding, programs and provisions that benefit both landowners, wildlife — including pollinators like butterflies — while preserving existing environmental laws.

    Defenders fights for proper consultation with the Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries Services to ensure that activities like pesticide application or development won’t further jeopardize imperiled species.

    We are also opposing the proposed border wall that may harm butterflies; wall proposals directly target the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, as well as Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park and the National Butterfly Center.


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    Сыграть в Dances with Butterflies VR

    Об этой игре

    Every year millions of monarch butterflies overwinter in the mountains of Mexico. Dances with Butterflies lets you stand in a clearing in the forest and conduct clouds of monarch butterflies to music. Use your VR controllers as wands to conduct them and the trackpad to draw them closer or push them further away. Conduct to The Monarch Waltz by Cliff Eastabrook — or use the music in your head.

    Take a break from the carnage of other games. Clear your head by standing in a mountain glade and gently conduct wafting clouds of beautiful monarch butterflies. Or start your day with five meditative minutes of peace and tranquility.

    Системные требования


      • ОС: 8.1
      • Процессор: Intel® i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent
      • Оперативная память: 4 GB ОЗУ
      • Видеокарта: NVIDIA GTX 970 (AMD Radeon R9 290) or better, AMD Radeon™ R9 290 equivalent or better, Video Output: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2
      • Сеть: Широкополосное подключение к интернету
      • Место на диске: 250 MB
      • Звуковая карта: N/A

    Copyright Jonathan Robson 2018. Distributed under Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives License.


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    Plants that Attract Butterflies


    Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools

    Butterflies and flowers were made for each other, and there are certain flowers that butterflies absolutely love to be around. As a French poet once pointed out, “Butterflies are flying flowers, and flowers are tethered butterflies.” Here are some of the best plants that attract butterflies!

    In attracting butterflies to your garden, it’s important to understand what they want most out of life: nectar. The ancients, who believed that nectar fell directly from heaven, named it after the wines of the gods.

    Keeping Your Garden Butterfly-Friendly

    If you want to keep butterflies in your yard (and support these declining pollinators), it’s essential to include host plants where they can lay their eggs (some butterfly species are fussier than others as to what plants are best); once the larvae hatch, the host plants will serve as food for the developing caterpillars.

    To encourage butterflies to reside in your garden, it’s best to include food sources in the form of host plants for caterpillars and nectar plants for butterflies.

    A butterfly’s wish list also includes sunny open spaces, shelter from the wind, and fresh water.

    It’s also crucial to opt for using native plant varieties in your garden, as these will be the most beneficial to the butterflies and caterpillars in your area. Consult your local garden center or Cooperative Extension service for more information on native plants.

    A monarch caterpillar feasting on milkweed.

    Plants That Attract Butterflies

    For caterpillars, consider plants like violets, milkweed, and asters. Learn more about milkweed, the only host plant for monarchs.

    Did you know: Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed. In fact, the monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly.” Read more about common milkweed.

    For butterflies, Joe-Pye weed, ironweed, yellow coneflowers, goldenrod, and brightly-hued asters are nectar-filled favorites.

    See our full butterfly plant list below.

    Common Name Latin Name
    Allium Allium
    Aromatic Aster Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
    Bee balm Monarda
    Black Cherry Prunus serotina
    Blue Wild Indigo Baptisia australis
    Blueberry bushes Vaccinium corymbosum,
    Vaccomoium angustifolium
    Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis
    Butterfly bush* Buddleia
    Catmint Nepeta
    Clove Pink Dianthus
    Cornflower Centaurea
    Daylily Hemerocallis
    False indigo Baptisia
    Fleabane Erigeron
    Floss flower Ageratum
    Globe thistle Echinops
    Goldenrod Solidago
    Grey Dogwood Cornus racemosa
    Helen’s flower Helenium
    Hollyhock Alcea
    Hoptree Ptelea trifoliata
    Joe-Pye weeds Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus,
    Eupatoriadelphus maculates,
    Eupatorium purpureum
    Lavender Lavendula
    Lilac Syringa
    Lupine Lupinus
    Lychnis Lychnis
    Mallow Malva
    Milkweed Asclepias tuberosa
    Mint Mentha
    New York Ironweed Vernonia noveboracensis
    Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius
    Northern Spicebush Lindera benzoin
    Pansy Viola
    Phlox Phlox
    Pipevine Aristolochia macrophylla
    Privet Ligustrum
    Purple coneflower Echinacea
    Rock cress Arabis
    Sage Salvia
    Sea holly Eryngium
    Senna, American Senna hebacarpa
    Senna, Maryland Senna marilandica
    Shasta daisy Chrysanthemum sp.
    Snapdragon Antirrhinum
    Stonecrop Sedum
    Sweet alyssum Lobularia
    Sweet rocket Hesperis
    Tickseed Coreopsis
    Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera
    Trumpet Vine Campsis radicans
    Zinnia Zinnia

    * now categorized as an invasive plant in many states.

    Please let us know if we’re missing any of your favorite butterfly plants! Just comment below.

    Butterflies also need a friendly habitat. To learn more, read our article about Butterfly Gardening.

    Related Pollinator Articles


    See also:  International Nonproprietary Names (INN)
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