Brush-footed Butterflies (Nymphalidae)
True Brushfoots (Nymphalinae)
Comma Butterflies (Polygonia)
Lady Butterflies (Vanessa)
Patch Butterflies (Chlosyne)
Peacock Butterflies (Anartia)
Additional Brush-footed Butterflies
Emperor Butterflies (Apaturinae)
Milkweed Butterflies (Danaus)
Monarch Butterfly Facts
Satyrs and Wood-Nymphs
Brushfoot butterflies (family Nymphalidae) receive the title of largest North American butterfly family. The two hundred plus native brushfoot species represent approximately thirty percent of the total number of North American butterfly species.
The family's large size translates into an abundance of butterfly stories, from tales about long range migratory species such as Monarchs and Red Admirals, to updates on the mass migration patterns of species such as American Snouts and California Tortoiseshells.
Somewhere along the way the story of the brushfoots gets retold as the four legged butterflies because of the reduced size of their front legs.
From a technical perspective, North American brushfoots divide into eleven subfamilies. Some of those sufamilies, such as the True Brush-foots, Satyrs and Fritillaries, have relatively high species numbers, along with a continent wide presence.
Other subfamilies anchor the small end of the number of species spectrum. Two subfamilies, Libytheinae and Morphinae rank as the easiest to learn because of their one of a kind status.
The American Snout, pictured at the top of the page, represents the entire subfamily Libytheinae in North America.
The second picture shows the Snout in its usual position, wings folded, looking like a leaf and blending into the habitat. It just crawled out of its chrysalis.
Snouts are common in most of the United States except for areas of the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest.
White Morpho butterflies (Morpho polyphemus) get included in the small numer of native species category because occasionally one will stray into southern Arizona, making it the only North American Morphinae visitor.
A handful of tropical Leafwing species (Charaxinae) receive recognition as native North American species.
As things currently stand, most North Americans think the Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria), picture three, as the primary North American leafwing species.
Its range extends from the Southwest to the Midwest to the Southeast. Like most leafwings, it grows to an above average size. With folded wings it resembles leaves.
Goatwing Leafwing caterpillars feed primarily on goatweed, explaining the common name.
This field guide provides additional detailed information covering the seven brushfoot subfamilies listed in the box on the right. These butterflies are typically the larger, and often orange shaded butterflies that occupy multiple habitats, including residential areas.
© 2001-2011. Patricia A. Michaels