Butterflies are a beloved insect in Arkansas, and their presence is celebrated at the annual Butterfly Festival held at Mount Magazine State Park. With an estimated 160 butterfly species in the state, this article explores 13 types of butterflies found in Arkansas. From the Mourning Cloak with its distinctive black wings and golden yellow edge to the Giant Swallowtail, the largest butterfly in North America, Arkansas is home to a diverse range of beautiful butterflies. Whether found near streams, meadows, or forest edges, these butterflies bring joy and color to the natural landscapes of Arkansas.
13 Butterflies in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to a diverse range of butterflies, with an estimated 160 different species residing in the state. These beautiful insects are a beloved part of Arkansas’s natural landscape, and many people enjoy observing and learning about them. In this article, we will explore 13 species of butterflies found in Arkansas, providing information on their appearance, behavior, and habitat.
Scientific Name: Nymphalis antiopa
The Mourning Cloak butterfly is easily distinguishable by its striking coloration. With wings that are primarily black, edged with a vibrant golden yellow and adorned with blue spots, this butterfly is a true beauty. While commonly found in Arkansas, Mourning Cloaks can also be spotted in nearly every other state in the country. What sets them apart from other butterfly species is their ability to hibernate during the winter months. This means they are most active during the spring and summer, and can often be found near streams, creeks, and meadows.
Scientific Name: Hesperia comma
Skippers are a group of small butterflies that closely resemble moths. While they may have shorter wings compared to other species, they make up for it with their distinct coloring. Skippers are typically brown or gray, but occasionally can be seen in shades of yellow, red, or blue. These butterflies are commonly found in sunny meadows or gardens, where they flit about and feed on nectar. They can also be spotted in swamps, where they may feed off of mud.
Scientific Name: Junonia coenia
The Common Buckeye butterfly is aptly named, as it is a widespread species that can be found in many regions of the United States, including Arkansas. These butterflies have a gray coloration with spots of orange and circular markings on their wings. They are relatively small, with adults reaching a wingspan of around 2.5 inches. To escape extreme cold temperatures, Common Buckeyes migrate starting in September or October.
Scientific Name: Vanessa virginiensis
The American Lady butterfly is commonly found in Arkansas and throughout North America. These butterflies have a reddish-orange coloration on their wings with black edges. One distinguishing feature of the American Lady is the presence of two eyespots under their wings, unlike the similar Painted Lady butterfly which has four eyespots. These butterflies prefer flying in open spaces such as meadows, fields, or roadside areas.
Scientific Name: Colias eurytheme
Also known as the alfalfa butterfly, the Orange Sulphur butterfly gets its name from the vibrant orange coloration of its wings. These butterflies can be found near alfalfa fields, as well as in various regions across the United States, including parts of southern Canada and Mexico. With a moderate size, reaching around 2 inches in wingspan, the Orange Sulphur adds a splash of color to any environment it inhabits.
Scientific Name: Calycopis cecrops
Habitat and Behavior
Hairstreak butterflies are a common sight in Arkansas, and the Red-banded Hairstreak is just one of many species in this group. Hairstreaks are small butterflies that can be identified by the marks present on the outside of their wings. While these butterflies can be seen in the southern United States throughout most of the year, they tend to fly north from April to October. Red-banded Hairstreaks prefer forest edges but can also be found in overgrown fields.
Little wood satyr
Scientific Name: Megisto cymela
The Little Wood Satyr butterfly is often seen in autumn in Arkansas, as it enjoys the forest floors where leaves have fallen. It is drawn to these spots because they offer warm rays of sunlight for the butterfly to bask in. While they appreciate the sunshine, Little Wood Satyrs tend to stick to wooded areas. With a wingspan just over an inch and a half, these small butterflies have a charming presence as they flutter through the woods.
Scientific Name: Papilio cresphontes
The Giant Swallowtail butterfly holds the title of being the largest butterfly in North America and is a common sight in Arkansas. These majestic insects can be found from the east to west coast, and even as far south as Panama. While they are a beautiful addition to any garden, they can also cause damage as caterpillars. In addition to gardens, Giant Swallowtails prefer to live in forests and citrus orchards. While common in most of North America, they spend the winter in southern regions.
Scientific Name: Lycaena phlaeas
The Small Copper butterfly, also referred to as the Common Copper or American Copper butterfly, is a widespread species that can thrive in various habitats. However, they prefer warm areas and can often be found in grasslands and clearings. These butterflies are known for being aggressive toward other bugs and typically travel alone or in pairs. With their striking coloration, Small Coppers are sure to catch your eye as they flutter through Arkansas’s landscapes.
Scientific Name: Celastrina neglecta
The Summer Azure butterflies are characterized by their pale blue wings with a dusting of white. These small insects reach just over an inch in length and can be found across the east coast and central United States, as well as southern Canada. They can undergo up to three generations in the South and are active from June to October. These delicate butterflies are a sight to behold as they flit from flower to flower.
Scientific Name: Limenitis arthemis
Often mistaken for the Red-spotted Purple butterfly, the White Admiral is commonly found throughout several regions in the United States. This butterfly can withstand deep cold weather and can live as far north as Alaska. While they prefer wooded areas, White Admirals can also be found in the suburbs of Arkansas. With a wingspan of up to 3.5 inches, these medium-sized butterflies sport black wings with patches of blue, making for a striking sight.
Scientific Name: Speyeria diana
No list of butterflies in Arkansas would be complete without mentioning the Diana Fritillary, the state’s official butterfly. The male butterflies have wings with burnt orange edges, while the females are a dark blue color. These beautiful insects are primarily found along the Arkansas River valley and the Appalachians. Diana Fritillaries enjoy wooded areas and can reach an impressive length of up to 4.5 inches.
Scientific Name: Papilio joanae
The Ozark Swallowtail is a unique butterfly that was once considered a synonym for the Black Swallowtail but has since been classified as its own species. These large butterflies can range from 3 to a little over 4 inches in length and are more common in the northern region of Arkansas, as well as Missouri and western Kentucky. Ozark Swallowtails prefer to live near woodlands and cedar glades, adding beauty to these natural habitats.
In conclusion, Arkansas is home to a diverse array of butterflies, each exhibiting their unique characteristics and beauty. Whether it’s the Mourning Cloak with its striking black and yellow wings or the Giant Swallowtail with its impressive size, these butterflies contribute to the vibrant natural ecosystem of Arkansas. Observing these delicate creatures in their natural habitats is a joyful experience and one that should be cherished.