Common Butterflies Seen in the Midwest USA

The Clouded Sulphur Butterfly - Colias euxanthe

Taken in my butterfly garden, this is a Yellow Clouded Sulphur butterfly, enjoying nectar from red pentas flowers.  It is a great annual to grow for butterflies of all kinds. Colias euxanthe
Taken in my butterfly garden, this is a Yellow Clouded Sulphur butterfly, enjoying nectar from red pentas flowers. It is a great annual to grow for butterflies of all kinds. Colias euxanthe | Source

Most Common Butterflies in the Midwest

This article is meant to be a visual guide for those wanting to identify different butterflies in the Midwestern region of the United States. I have seen many of these butterflies in person, and they are a sight to behold! Learning what they look like is a great first step in helping to learn more about their behaviors, and what they like, etc.

When I say the Midwestern United States, Wikipedia for example, designates the following states as being part of the Midwest USA. They are, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

It can be safely assumed that many of the butterflies shown here will have overlap into other regions of the United States. So you will naturally see some outside of the Midwest on occasion. The goal is to point out which can commonly be seen in the region, to learn their names and see what they look like.


The Comma Butterfly

Photo of a Comma Butterfly, resting on a wooden branch.  In the Public Domain.
Photo of a Comma Butterfly, resting on a wooden branch. In the Public Domain. | Source

The Question Mark Butterfly - Polygonia interrogationis

An interesting capture of a Question Mark butterfly, also known as Polygonia Interrogationais.  In the Public Domain.  Butterfly is on a white butterfly milk weed flower.
An interesting capture of a Question Mark butterfly, also known as Polygonia Interrogationais. In the Public Domain. Butterfly is on a white butterfly milk weed flower. | Source

The Great Spangled Frittillary Butterfly

We were on a drive out in the country in Missouri, when I found this Great Spangled Frittilary Butterfly on a flower.  I think the are beautiful!
We were on a drive out in the country in Missouri, when I found this Great Spangled Frittilary Butterfly on a flower. I think the are beautiful! | Source

The Spring Azure Butterfly - See Top Left Corner

Look to the top left of this image to see the Spring Azure butterfly.  When I get one of my own, I will share that here.  These are small and silvery on the outer wings.  They are more light blue when wings are open.
Look to the top left of this image to see the Spring Azure butterfly. When I get one of my own, I will share that here. These are small and silvery on the outer wings. They are more light blue when wings are open. | Source

Identifying Butterflies in the Midwestern United States

If you love butterflies, there is a great joy in seeing them frequenting the places you live, work or play. Whether you live in the Midwest United States, or are going to visit there sometime, it can be great to get to know some of the butterflies that live there.

This article is working off a good list of some of the common butterflies seen in the Midwest, but there are surely more. I haven't even begun to share what moths are in the same area. The moths are harder to see as they tend to be most active at night when it is dark.

My hope is that by giving you the names and some pictures of these butterflies, they will be easier to see, observe and identify.

As you learn about what each butterfly wants and needs, you can create a butterfly garden accordingly. Sometimes, it isn't just about nectar plants for food, but also host plants for these butterflies to lay their eggs on when they hit that stage of their lives. If you have the butterflies coming to your garden for multiple reasons, you will get a lot more activity out of them. I have witnessed this first hand, and it is a joy.

To the right, is a neat old photo containing some images of different butterflies. The Spring Azure is the one I was wanting to point out there, as I was currently unable to locate a usable photo of that one. My hope is that in time, I will have plenty of my own photos for all of these butterflies. Here, you will see a combination of my own photos, and those shared on the Internet and placed into the public domain. It is very generous of those that take these photos and share them in such ways. Thank you!

The Red Spotted Purple Butterfly - Limenitis arthemis astyanax

You can imagine how excited I was to find this Red Spotted Purple butterfly in my garden early one spring day.  The ground was wet, and it seemed very content there for a little bit.
You can imagine how excited I was to find this Red Spotted Purple butterfly in my garden early one spring day. The ground was wet, and it seemed very content there for a little bit. | Source

The Viceroy Butterfly - Limenitis archippus

Similar, but different from the Monarch that it looks like. A very beautiful butterfly, also known as Limenitis archippus.
Similar, but different from the Monarch that it looks like. A very beautiful butterfly, also known as Limenitis archippus. | Source

American Lady or Painted Lady Butterfly

I had the privilege of doing a wonderful favor once for my brother and sister-in-law and their daughter. They were going out of town and needed me to take something for them. I asked them about it, and they said they had received some mail order butterfly larvae, that would eat, grow and become Painted Lady butterflies. I said I would do whatever they needed!

When the caterpillars had finished eating their fill of leaves, they changed into their chrysalis state. The thing is when they emerged from these cocoons, they would need to be let free. My brother and sister-in-law knew I had a butterfly garden and asked if I would release them! I said I absolutely would, and would be so happy to help them out.

The day came for the butterflies to emerge from their cocoons, and it was amazing. I just loved it. The butterflies left the container one by one, flew free and knew exactly what to do. I never knew before then, that you could even order butterflies through the mail. It was a very neat learning experience all around.

Below, you can see a couple pictures of the Painted Lady, sometimes called the American Lady butterfly.

The American Lady or Painted Lady Butterfly - Vanessa virginiensis

Notice the outside of the wings of the American Lady butterfly, compared to when they are open.  Photo in the public domain.
Notice the outside of the wings of the American Lady butterfly, compared to when they are open. Photo in the public domain. | Source
American or Painted Lady Butterfly with wings open.  It is also known as Vanessa virginiensis.  Photo in the public domain.
American or Painted Lady Butterfly with wings open. It is also known as Vanessa virginiensis. Photo in the public domain. | Source

The Monarch Butterfly - Danaus plexippus

Monarch Butterfly on a Pink Zinnia grown from seed, drinking the nectar from it.  Photo taken in my backyard a few summers ago.  Danaus plexippus.
Monarch Butterfly on a Pink Zinnia grown from seed, drinking the nectar from it. Photo taken in my backyard a few summers ago. Danaus plexippus. | Source

The Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly -Everes comyntas

A lovely capture of an Eastern Tailed Blue, as they are so small and not always easy to see.  It is getting nectar from the butterfly weed, or blood weed flower.  Everes comyntas
A lovely capture of an Eastern Tailed Blue, as they are so small and not always easy to see. It is getting nectar from the butterfly weed, or blood weed flower. Everes comyntas | Source
The Eastern Tailed blue butterfly with wins open so you can see more of the light blue color.  The Everes Comyntas is a  small and dainty butterfly.
The Eastern Tailed blue butterfly with wins open so you can see more of the light blue color. The Everes Comyntas is a small and dainty butterfly. | Source

The Pearl Crescent Butterfly

The beautiful Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Milkweed or aka butterfly weed, or blood weed.  Notice the other little visitor enjoying the flower nectar as well?
The beautiful Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Milkweed or aka butterfly weed, or blood weed. Notice the other little visitor enjoying the flower nectar as well? | Source

The Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly -Papilio Polyxenes

This is a female Papilio polyxenes, or Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, enjoying nectar from a purple and white flowers.
This is a female Papilio polyxenes, or Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly, enjoying nectar from a purple and white flowers. | Source

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

I have seen the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly come to my garden for the nectar of purple phlox flowers.  They are so beautiful.
I have seen the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly come to my garden for the nectar of purple phlox flowers. They are so beautiful. | Source

The Orange Sulphur Butterfly -Colias eurytheme

Colias eurytheme - Also known as the Orange Sulphur Butterfly.  These sometimes look just like the Clouded Sulphur butterflies, but the tips look to be more orange or copper colored than the Clouded Sulphurs look.
Colias eurytheme - Also known as the Orange Sulphur Butterfly. These sometimes look just like the Clouded Sulphur butterflies, but the tips look to be more orange or copper colored than the Clouded Sulphurs look. | Source

The Cabbage White Butterfly -Pieris rapae

A lovely capture of a Cabbage White Butterfly or Pieris Rapae, on a purple flower.  It looks like it might be butterfly bush.  In the Public Domain
A lovely capture of a Cabbage White Butterfly or Pieris Rapae, on a purple flower. It looks like it might be butterfly bush. In the Public Domain | Source

Checkered White Butterfly

There is another common butterfly in the Midwest United States, that isn't pictured in this hub, called the Checkered White butterfly. The design is a big checkered, as you could have guessed. The colors that I have seen are a combination of white, grey, and black. There is a very beautiful silver sheen as well. If you see a butterfly that matches that description, that is likely what it is.

Local Butterflies - Poll

Do you care about or notice when you see a butterfly in your local area?

  • Yes! I love to see butterflies!
  • No, not really.
  • Someties
  • I never thought about it.
  • Some other answer.
See results without voting

© 2014 Paula

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

kerlund74 profile image

kerlund74 2 years ago from Sweden

I love butterflies as well and really enjoyed watching all photos. My favorite; The Red Spotted Purple Butterfly. I have learned some about plants that are great for butterflies and the nettle for example are great food for the caterpillars.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Kerlund, I am so glad you enjoyed the photos I shared here. The Red Spotted Purple butterfly is about my favorite also. There are different variations on the look, but it is basically what you see there. I saw one that had more purples than dark blues, and some that were lighter, etc.

As for the plants that are good for the caterpillars, that is something I love to learn about and plant in my garden if I can. There is quite a few things, from trees to vines to shrubs and of course certain flowers. The nettle is good to know about, so thank you. I am glad you stopped by and thank you for the comment.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

What a beautiful hub. I enjoyed both the photos and the facts. Congratulations on the HubPot top 10.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Flourish, I am so glad you thought it beautiful and enjoyed the information and pictures. Thanks for your congratulations, visit and comment. Have a great day!


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

Those butterflies were beautiful. I am glad that you had that experience with the butterfly larva and learning something new. I voted it up and pinned it again.

Kevin

P.S. - I would also suggest that you proofread this carefully, especially the section of the Painted Lady.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Hello Kevin, well thank you for the visit to one of my butterfly hubs, and your comment. It makes me happy that others love the beauty of butterflies like I do. Your suggestion was helpful also, I truly appreciate that. Have a great day, and thanks also for the pins!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 2 years ago from Maui and Arizona

I enjoyed your hub. I wonder if your brother and sister-in-law set that up just for you rather than having it already ordered and needing a favor from you. Either way, it sounds like it was a very special experience. Beautiful photos. Voting up and Sharing.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 2 years ago from The Midwest, USA Author

Pamela, that is an interesting thought that I never had before! My brother and sister in law are actually very sweet like that, and it wouldn't surprise me! I appreciate your comment, and glad you enjoyed it. Thank you!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working