Thanks for visiting Idaho butterflies.
This Pacific Northwest state hosts close to one hundred and seventy five butterfly species, putting it in the above average category for state butterfly diversity.
This presentation of Idaho butterflies is split according to families, primarily because butterfly families can often be easily identified by physical features such as color and size. The butterfly pictures provide some good examples of how color helps with identification questions. Please press the green butterflies button for more pictures and information on specific butterfly species.
Brush Footed Butterflies
Spring comes late to most of Idaho. The brushfoot butterflies don’t really begin having their full impact on the state until late May or early June. A butterfly such as the Mourning Cloak overwinters in many areas of Idaho and therefore it’s one of the first signs of spring when it reappears on the landscape.
Most people initially recognize brushfoot butterflies as the larger than average butterflies with orange wings. With few exceptions such as with the arctics and wood nymphs, that’s true.
The video at the top of the page, for example, shows a variable checkerspot butterfly known for it’s black and orange appearance. The side view highlights the checkerspot pattern present on all checkerspot species. Because there are multiple subspecies of the variable checkerspot, the physical appearance changes slightly.
The top picture for this section shows the Monarch butterfly, the official state butterfly. Notice the orange wing color and pattern.
Picture two in the brushfoot category shows a Pacific Fritillary butterfly, one of the smaller, orange winged fitillary butterflies found in Idaho.
Finally, here’s a Hoary common, another butterfly with orange wings with a slightly different wing pattern than the fritillary and checkerspot butterflies in the state. Wing color and patterns often serve as the best initial butterfly identification clues. The name comma butterfly comes from the face that the size of the wing has a light mark that resembles a comma punctuation mark.
A look down the list shows multiple fritillaries, checkerspots and wood nymphs dominating the Idaho brush footed butterfly category.
Checkerspots can often be found in residential areas throughout the state. Most fritillary species are partial to the mountain areas.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Great Basin Fritillary
West Coast Lady
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Habitat diversity and a geographical position near the Rocky mountains makes Idaho a nice area for Pieridae species.
Like some other Northwestern and Western states, there’s a balance between the whites and yellows. The picture shows a colorful Orangetip species.
When it comes to the nine yellow butterflies in the Colias genera, identification can be rough.
The picture shows the Western Sulphur. It has cleaner wings (lack of pattern) than the more common Clouded and Cloudless Sulphurs.
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
There’s always something happening with the Gossamer Wing butterflies in Idaho. The list indicates that visitors can go almost anywhere in the state and snap a new picture of blues, hairstreaks and coppers.
Identification of blue butterflies can range from fairly easy. Look for chevrons on the underside of the wings for Azures. Tailed-blues are the only blues with hairlike projections on the tails.
Other species have various numbers of orange spots along the bottom and/or tops of the wings. Melissa Blues, for example, have orange spots along both the upper and bottom wings. The Acmon Blue butterfly in the picture has orange spots on the bottom of the wings.
The picture shows a Male Purplish Copper butterfly.
Western Square-dotted Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Western Green Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Western Pine Elfin
The majority of Idaho swallowtail butterflies have yellow wings, making identification a bit of a challenge. Subtle differences, for example, differentiate the Eastern, Western and Canadian Tiger Swallowtails.
The Western Tiger Swallowtail has a state wide distribution, compared to the limited distribution for the two other species.
The picture shows an Anise swallowtail. It also has a state wide distribution.
The two Parnassian species have transparent wings that often have a white coloration. They too have a state wide distribution.
- Clodius Parnassian
- Rocky Mountain Parnassian
- Old World Swallowtail
- Anise Swallowtail
- Indra Swallowtail
- Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
- Western Tiger Swallowtail
- Pale Swallowtail
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
The Mormon Metalmark is the state’s sole metalmark species.