Colorado Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

picture of a purplish copper butterfly, part of the Colorado Butterflies seriers

Tourists rightly identify the Rocky Mountains with Colorado. Many soon learn that the Rocky Mountains also define Colorado butterflies.

Typically the mountains represent a dividing live between many so called eastern butterfly species and western butterfly species. The front range of Colorado, east of the Rocky Mountains consists of foothills and prairies. It supports a large and diverse butterfly population numbering close to one hundred species.

Local parks and trails are abundant in this part of Colorado. There’s nothing holding back visitors from a pleasant butterfly day trip.

Visitors looking for more butterfly diversity and volume without the hike can always stop by the North American butterfly house in Fort Collins. There they will have the opportunity to see up to 400 free-flying North American butterflies in action.

The mountain areas to the west also host another distinct butterfly population. The Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, documents 141 butterfly species. Their top five species commonly seen by visitors: Mormon Fritillary; Painted Lady; Small Wood-Nymph; Spring Azure; Arctic Blue.

Taken together, Colorado has always been a great state for butterfly enthusiasts.

Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of a margined white butterfly, part of the Colorado butterflies section
A close to even number of whites and yellows aslo testifies to butterfly diversity in the state. The picture shows a Margined White.
Southern Rocky Mountain Orangetip
Southwestern Orangetip
Large Marble
Olympia Marble
Desert Marble
Florida White
Pine White
Margined White
Cabbage White
Becker’s White
Checkered White
Western White
Spring White
Great Southern White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Mead’s Sulphur
Scudder’s Sulphur
Southern Dogface
White Angled-Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Orange-barred Sulphur
Lyside Sulphur
Mexican Yellow
Little Yellow
Mimosa Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of a blue copper butterfly, part of the Colorado Butterflies series
Almost six dozen blues, hairstreaks and coppers have been documented in Colorado. Hardly a day passes in butterfly season when one is not spotted in the mountains, fields, forests, gardens, and local tourist destinations.

The picture shows a Blue Copper butterfly. It’s one of the exceptions to the general rule of butterfly identification for the category. Of course, the blues are suppose to have blue wings and copper butterflies are suppose to have copper color wings. Compare it to the Purplish Copper picture at the top of the page.

Of additional interest, The Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly is recognized as the official state insect.

Colorado Hairstreak
Great Purple Hairstreak
Western Green Hairstreak
“Apama” Western Green Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Desert Green Hairstreak
Juniper Hairstreak
Thicket Hairstreak
Sandia Hairstreak
Brown Elfin
Moss’ Elfin
Desert Elfin
Hoary Elfin
Western Pine Elfin
Oak Hairstreak
Coral Hairstreak
Acadian Hairstreak
California Hairstreak
Sylvan Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak
Striped Hairstreak
Hedgerow Hairstreak
Behr’s Hairstreak
Sooty Hairstreak
Soapberry Hairstreak
Red-banded Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak
Leda Ministreak
Gray Ministreak
White-M Hairstreak
Marine Blue
Western Pygmy-Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Western Tailed-Blue
Spring Azure
Northern Azure
Summer Azure
Hops Azure
Arrowhead Blue
Silvery Blue
Western Square-dotted Blue
Ellis’ Dotted-Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Rita Dotted-Blue
Spalding’s Dotted-Blue
Ceraunus Blue
Reakirt’s Blue
Northern Blue
Melissa Blue (includes Karner Blue)
Greenish Blue
Boisduval’s Blue
Shasta Blue
Lupine Blue
Arctic Blue
‘Rustic’ Arctic Blue
Tailed Copper
American Copper
Lustrous Copper
Gray Copper
Edith’s Copper
Bronze Copper
Ruddy Copper
Blue Copper
Purplish Copper
Dorcas Copper
Lilac-bordered Copper

Brush Footed Butterflies

picture of a Sagebrush Checkerspot butterfly, part of the Colorado butterflies collection
While Colorado hosts a large diversity of Brush Footed butterflies, a quick look down the list sees it filled with three common names, Fritillary, Checkerspot and Crescent. The picture shows a very colorful Sagebrush Checkerspot.

Many of the Fritillary species are mountain butterflies, and tourists can easily spot a handful of them during a summer hike. Beware, the Speyeria genus of Fritillary butterflies rank as some of the most difficult species to differentiate. The common names of Arctic and Alpine also identify the mountain species.

Brush footed
American Snout
Mexican Silverspot
Gulf Fritillary
Julia Heliconian
Zebra Heliconian
Variegated Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary
Regal Fritillary
Nokomis Fritillary
Edwards’ Fritillary
Coronis Fritillary
Zerene Fritillary
Callippe Fritillary
Atlantis Fritillary
Northwestern Fritillary
Hydaspe Fritillary
Mormon Fritillary
Bog Fritillary
Silver-bordered Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Frigga Fritillary
Dingy Fritillary
Freija Fritillary
Arctic Fritillary
Red-spotted Purple or White Admiral
Weidemeyer’s Admiral
Arizona Sister
Marpesia petreus
Hackberry Emperor
Common Mestra
Dotted Checkerspot
Arachne Checkerspot
Fulvia Checkerspot
Leanira Checkerspot
Silvery Checkerspot
Gorgone Checkerspot
Bordered Patch
Rockslide Checkerspot
Sagebrush Checkerspot
Northern Checkerspot
Brush footed
Vesta or Graphic Crescent
Painted Crescent
Pale Crescent
Mylitta Crescent
Pearl Crescent
Northern Crescent
Tawny Crescent
Field Crescent
Texan Crescent
Edith’s Checkerspot
Chalcedon Checkerspot
Anicia Checkerspot
Common Buckeye
Tropical Buckeye
Question Mark
Eastern Comma
Satyr Comma
Green Comma
Hoary Comma
Zephyr Comma
Gray Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
California Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
West Coast Lady
American Lady
Goatweed Leafwing
Eyed Brown
Common Ringlet
Canyonland Satyr
Little Wood-Satyr
Magdalena Alpine
Common Alpine
Yellow-dotted Alpine
Colorado Alpine
Ridings’ Satyr
Wyoming Satyr
Polixenes Arctic
Jutta Arctic
Melissa Arctic
White-veined Arctic
Chryxus Arctic
Alberta Arctic
Uhler’s Arctic
Common Wood-Nymph
Mead’s Wood-Nymph
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
Small Wood-Nymph

Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of an Anise Swallowtail
Colorado butterflies also mean swallowtail butterflies. All but the first two belong to the genus Papilio.

The presence of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the Western Tiger Swallowtail exemplifies the Rocky Mountain butterfly divide. Expect to see them in gardens around the state, including the flower gardens typically found around the tourist hotels. The picture shows an Anise swallowtail.

  • Rocky Mountain Parnassian
  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Old World Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Anise Swallowtail
  • Indra Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Western Tiger Swallowtail
  • Pale Swallowtail
  • Two-tailed Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Thoas Swallowtail
  • Giant Swallowtail

Colorado Butterflies: Metalmarks

Two metalmark species also find a home in Colorado.
  • Mormon Metalmark
  • Nais Metalmark