California Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

picture of a Hedgerow Hairstreak, part of the California butterflies collection

California means beaches. Most tourists already know that. Most tourists soon discover that California also means butterflies.

If visitors are attentive to detail, they can easily discover the full California butterflies story in a couple of days hiking..

For example, consider the state’s tree largest metropolitan areas.

Recent surveys in San Francisco (just the city limits) find thirty five different species. Further south the butterfly checklist for Los Angeles county has about one hundred different species listed (not counting the Skippers). San Diego County also lists approximately one hundred butterfly species.

The statement the California means butterflies is no exaggeration. California butterfly identification starts by identifying wing color.

This introduction to California butterflies lists the species and divides them to family. Space limitations mean only a few butterfly pictures can be added. Visitors seeking additional butterfly pictures and identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.

California Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of a pair of California Marble butterflies, part of the California butterflies section
The balance between the number of white butterfly species and yellow butterfly species in California speaks loudly for butterfly diversity in the state. Typically states have more of one than the other.

The multiple Orangetip and Marble butterfly species under the Whites listing explains most of the diversity in the category.

The first picture in this section shows a pair of California Marble butterflies. They are fairly common up and down the state because the larvae feed on the also very common mustard plants.

picture of a Sara's Oragnetip butterfly part of the California butterflies section
Here’s a picture of a Sara’s Orangetip. The colorful wings extend to both the top and bottom of the wings, with striking orange coloration on the top of the wings.

All the Orangetip butterflies, including the Sara’s Orangetip tend to be early flyers. In California they can begin being seen starting in February in the warmer areas of the state.

By June they begin appearing in the mountain areas, and then fade away for the remainder of the season.

picture of a California Dogface butterfly, the state insect of California
California’s yellow butterfly species pretty much match up with the butterfly species of most Southwestern states.

While the state does not have an official state butterfly, the Southern Dogface is designated as the official state insect.

It is endemic to California and looks similar to the more common Southern Dogface.

Desert Orangetip
Pacific Orangetip
Stella Orangetip
Southern Rocky Mountain Orangetip
Southwestern Orangetip
Gray Marble
Large Marble
Desert Marble
California Marble
Pine White
Margined White
Cabbage White
Becker’s White
Checkered White
Western White
Spring White
Spring White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Western Sulphur
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Harford’s Sulphur
Sierra Sulphur
Southern Dogface
California Dogface
Cloudless Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Orange-barred Sulphur
Lyside Sulphur
Boisduval’s Yellow
Mexican Yellow
Little Yellow
Mimosa Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of a California Hairtreak butterfly, part of the California butterflies section
California butterflies also dazzle when it comes to the gossamer-wing category. Tourists will be greatly rewarded by keeping their eyes down, looking for these small butterflies on flowers and plants.

Over six dozen species have been documented up and down the state, and from the coastal areas to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Butterfly diversity is weakest in the valley regions between the coast and mountains, along with the large metropolitan areas, primarily because of human encroachment on their territory. However, many gardens in these areas do support a few of the species. The picture shows a California Hairstreak.

The next group starts off the blue butterflies.

Blue Butterflies
picture of an Acmon Blue butterfly
Anna’s Blue

picture of an Arrowhead Blue butterfly
Arrowhead Blue

picture of a Boisduval's Blue butterfly
Boisduval’s Blue

picture of a Ceeranus Blue butterfly
Ceranus Blue

picture of an Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly
Eastern Tailed Blue

picture of an Echo Blue butterfly
Echo Blue

picture of a Greenish Blue butterfly
Greenish Blue

Blue Butterflies
picture of a Marine Blue butterfly
Marine Blue

picture of a Melissa Blue butterfly
Melissa Blue

picture of a Reakirt's Blue butterfly
Reakirt’s Blue

picture of a Sierra Nevada Blue butterfly
Sierra Nevada Blue

picture of a Silvery Blue butterfly
Silvery Blue

picture of a Square-spotted Blue butterfly
Square-spotted Blue

picture of a Western Pygmy Blue butterfly
Western Pygmy Blue

picture of a Western Tailed Blue butterfly
Western Tailed Blue

Here’s a list of all the gossamer-wingbutterflies. Larger pictures and descriptions are available by pressing the butterflies button.

Golden Hairstreak
Great Purple Hairstreak
Western Green Hairstreak
Coastal Green Hairstreak
‘Alpine’ Sheridan’s Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Desert Green Hairstreak
Nelson’s Hairstreak
Thorne’s Juniper
Muir’s Hairstreak
Juniper Hairstreak
Thicket Hairstreak
Johnson’s Hairstreak
Brown Elfin
Moss’ Elfin
Desert Elfin
Hoary Elfin
Western Pine Elfin
Sky-blue Groundstreak
Coral Hairstreak
California Hairstreak
Sylvan Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak
Gold-hunter’s Hairstreak
Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak
Hedgerow Hairstreak
Behr’s Hairstreak
Sooty Hairstreak
Sagebrush Sooty Hairstreak
Silver-banded Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak
Avalon Scrub-Hairstreak
Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak
Leda Ministreak
Marine Blue
Western Pygmy-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Western Tailed-Blue
Echo Azure
Arrowhead Blue
Silvery Blue
Sonoran Blue
Small Dotted-Blue
Western Square-dotted Blue
Central Dotted-Blue
Bernardino Dotted-Blue
Intermediate Dotted-Blue
Ellis’ Dotted-Blue
Bauer’s Dotted-Blue
Pacific Dotted-Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Mojave Dotted-Blue
E Pallid Dotted-Blue
Ceraunus Blue
Reakirt’s Blue
Anna’s Blue
Melissa Blue (includes Karner Blue)
Greenish Blue
San Emigdio Blue
Boisduval’s Blue
Shasta Blue
Acmon Blue
Lupine Blue
Veined Blue
Sierra Nevada Blue
Cassiope Blue
Friday’s Blue
Tailed Copper
American Copper
Lustrous Copper
Great Copper
Edith’s Copper
Gorgon Copper
Ruddy Copper
Blue Copper
Purplish Copper
Lilac-bordered Copper
Mariposa Copper
Hermes Copper

Brush Footed Butterflies

picture of a Green Comma butterfly, part of the California butterflies collection
Almost all visitors to the Golden State can easily photography at least a dozen Brush Footed butterflies during their state. These are the larger butterflies, often with orange color wings that visit the flowers of gardens around hotels, parks and residential areas in the cities.

With almost six dozen different Brush Footed Butterflies documented in California, any visitor can capture a phone filled with butterfly pictures by traveling a short distance and taking a hike in some of the still undeveloped areas of the state. The picture shows a Green Comma butterfly.

Brush footed
American Snout
Gulf Fritillary
Zebra Heliconian
Variegated Fritillary
Mexican Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Nokomis Fritillary
Coronis Fritillary
Zerene Fritillary
Callippe Fritillary
Great Basin Fritillary
Unsilvered Fritillary
Northwestern Fritillary
Hydaspe Fritillary
Mormon Fritillary
Pacific Fritillary
Lorquin’s Admiral
Weidemeyer’s Admiral
Arizona Sister
California Sister
Hackberry Emperor
Blackened Bluewing
Dotted Checkerspot
Arachne Checkerspot
Leanira Checkerspot
California Patch
Bordered Patch
Hoffmann’s Checkerspot
Rockslide Checkerspot
Sagebrush Checkerspot
Gabb’s Checkerspot
Northern Checkerspot
Tiny Checkerspot
Brush footed
California Crescent
Mylitta Crescent
Phaon Crescent
Pearl Crescent
Field Crescent
Texan Crescent
Edith’s Checkerspot
Chalcedon Checkerspot
Anicia Checkerspot
Colon Checkerspot
Common Buckeye
Tropical Buckeye
Satyr Comma
Green Comma
Hoary Comma
Gray Comma
Oreas Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
California Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
West Coast Lady
American Lady
Common Ringlet
Ridings’ Satyr
Chryxus Arctic
Great Arctic
Common Wood-Nymph
Mead’s Wood-Nymph
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
Small Wood-Nymph

Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of an Anise Swallowtail
The presence of both Parnassian and Swallowtail butterflies also attests to the state’s wonderful butterfly diversity. The two Parnassian species are only found in the mountain areas. Visitors will be greeted by multiple swallowtail species even in the larger urban environments.
  • Clodius Parnassian
  • Sierra Nevada Parnassian
  • Rocky Mountain Parnassian
  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Polydamas Swallowtail
  • Old World Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Anise Swallowtail
  • Indra Swallowtail
  • Western Tiger Swallowtail
  • Pale Swallowtail
  • Two-tailed Swallowtail
  • Giant Swallowtail

California Butterflies: Metalmarks

picture of a Fatal Metalmark
While they do not count any of the more colorful and flashy looking Metalmarks as part of the California butterflies tradition, the state does host a healthy five different species. The picture shows a Fatal Metalmark.
  • Fatal Metalmark
  • Wright’s Metalmark
  • Mormon Metalmark
  • Behr’s Metalmark
  • Sonoran Metalmark
  • Palmer’s Metalmark