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Moths and Butterflies that Survive in the Arctic and Mountain Regions

Updated on November 16, 2015

Antler Moth - Cerapteryx graminis

A lovely photo of this moth on a purple thistle flower.
A lovely photo of this moth on a purple thistle flower. | Source

Cerapteryx Graminis - Antler Moth


Butterflies and Moths in Arctic and Mountain Habitats

Butterflies and moths live all over the globe, including in climates that can be severely cold and windy at times. In these arctic and mountain habitats, the cold temperatures often with wind, and the very short summers pose all kinds of problems for butterflies and moths. Many of the butterflies and moths we are more acquainted with would never survive a day in these climates. These butterflies I am speaking of here have adapted to be able to survive these conditions. There are surely more, but this is a good sampling at the very least.

Many of the butterflies and moths mentioned only fly when the air becomes very still. Even then, they make very short flights. Often, it is just from one place of shelter to another.

Some of them live at altitudes of over 16,400 feet. This is most impressive considering what is normally known about butterflies and moths. Its a very long way from the tropical climates in jungles, for instance.

One of the big differences is that the pupae, or some of them may be frozen and thawed several times. This sounds crazy, but makes sense if you think about it. For there to be enough time to go through the different stages of their lives, there needs to be enough of the right conditions. To me, it is amazing they can accommodate for this and survive even if it means freezing to do so.

In the caterpillar stage, it can often take up to three years for them to mature in the mountain and arctic climates.

Antler Moth - Cerapteryx graminis

Cerapteryx graminis- Moth
Cerapteryx graminis- Moth | Source

Antler Moth - Cerapteryx Graminis

The Antler moth is named after the markings on its forewings which look like antlers. There are yellow marks on its forewings that look like antlers. Many moths are more active at night, but these ones fly both day and night.

You can find Antler moths in Asia, Siberia, and North America. They are often on upland moors at altitudes up to 6,560 feet.

On the right, I include an image that is an artists rendition of this moth with a flower it might likely be found near. With many of the butterflies in this hub, there are only a very limited number of images available at this time, that are usable. So I wanted to share this one as well, and I thought it was pretty.

Antler Moth - Cerapteryx Graminis

Antler Moth - Cerapteryx hibernicus, or Cerapteryx graminis.
Antler Moth - Cerapteryx hibernicus, or Cerapteryx graminis. | Source

The Hermit Butterfly

The Hermit Butterfly is another one that can be found in the colder climates of the Arctic and mountainous regions. The Hermit butterfly has mottled coloring which helps it to be camouflaged in the rocky mountain regions in Europe. Along the mountainsides there, it really uses this camouflage.

The Hermit caterpillar gets its sustenance mainly from the blue moor grass. During the winter, it hibernates.

Piedmont Ringlet Butterfly - Erebia Meolans

The Piedmont Ringlet butterfly has darker colored wings which help with absorbing of heat and sunshine as possible. This is a definite plus in the colder regions in which they can be found. You can find them in June or July on the slopes of mountains in Southern Europe. It likes to fly over the stony and grassy slopes of mountains. The altitude you will most often see these butterflies is 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level.

The color is a very dark brown on the wings, with black rings or markings which probably help with protecting itself and camouglage.

Piedmont Ringlet Butterfly - Erebia Meolans

 Guadarrama, Segovia, España.
Guadarrama, Segovia, España. | Source

The Common Wall Butterfly

In Iran, India, and western China, you can find the Common Wall Butterfly. They like the sunny mountainsides that are above 6,560 feet. There is a lot of wind on these mountainsides, and to help avoid being blown about too much, they try to fly as low to the ground as possible.

They are golden orange in color most often, and have a darker patch on the wings that looks like an eye spot, likely good to help with safety from predators.

Arctic Clouded Yellow - Colias palaeno europome

This needs to be double checked, but this is possibly a bit different than some of the other Colias Palaeno butterflies.
This needs to be double checked, but this is possibly a bit different than some of the other Colias Palaeno butterflies. | Source

Arctic Clouded Yellow

The Arctic Clouded Yellow and many other species of butterflies have been known to have a type of "antifreeze" in their blood. This of course helps them to survive in the sometimes freezing temperatures in these climates.

I think it is simply amazing that there is a type of "antifreeze" in their blood. Normally, their blood is waiting to warm up to a certain temperature even in the spring, summer and fall in many regions of the United States.

The Silver Butterfly

This butterfly has beautiful iridescent wings, which are silvery in color. You will find them in the high mountainous areas in the Andes. The silvery wings are naturally reflective which helps it to appear and seem to then disappear. It can come in handy for a hungry predator.

Gates of the Arctic Mountains in Summer


My experiences observing mountain moths and butterflies

The first time I really became aware of such butterflies as shown in this article, was several years ago when we were on a trip to Colorado. I recall being on top of Pikes Peak, a very high elevation there. It is so high that you need to keep an eye on your vehicle, and oxygen levels even! You almost have to move slower, because of getting used to the difference in the air.

Upon driving up that peak, you could see the changes in the plants and flowers. It was summer time. So while there as a lot of lush green growth along the bottom of the mountain, the upper area was much colder and the plants and trees were very sparse. You saw lots of rocks and dirt. The change was fairly drastic to see in one days time.

What caught my eye, as always, were the butterflies and moths! I couldn't believe, based on what I knew at that time, that some of these little butterflies and moths would be up there at all. They paid attention to the very few flowers growing, for instance. I was amazed.

So after learning more about higher altitude butterflies and moths, it all made sense. These seemingly fragile creatures have adapted over time and really worked hard in climates that seem a bit difficult for any creature to really survive in. I am very impressed all the more. As if I needed any more reasons to love butterflies than I already have.

Butterflies and Moths Found in the Arctic and Mountains- Poll

Were you aware there were butterflies and moths that lived in very cold regions like the Arctic and higher mountain elevations?

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© 2014 Paula


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Traveler, How wonderful to go to Alaska this summer! That is a location I hope to go to some time. Like you, I never would have thought to look for butterflies there, and I hope you maybe see some, or moths even. I was happy to know they could survive in colder places as they usually like much warmer weather. I hope you have a wonderful time! Thank you for your comment.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      I am headed to western Alaska this summer. Never even thought to look for butterflies there, but will for sure look now