Illinois Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

picture of a Monarch Butterfly the state butterfly of Illinois

Fun fact: Illinois butterflies constitute less than ten percent of the total Illinois Lepidoptera population. Of the approximately 2000 butterfly and moth species in the state, about 150 of them are butterflies. One of the, the very popular Monarch Butterfly, pictured, is the state’s official state butterfly.

State wide action continues to be taken to reverse the downward pressures on local Monarch populations. Recent estimates suggest the populations have decreased as much as eighty percent over the past few decades. Public and private sector actors continue to promote the use of Milkweed in the garden to provide larval host plants.

In the Chicago areas, butterflies can be abundant in butterfly gardens. About twenty different species can live year to year in the metropolitian area because their caterpillars or pupa overwinter.

Populations of different species will differ slightly from area to area within the state. This one page review presents a list of Illinois butterflies divided by families. It is accompanied by some pictures of representative species.

Visitors interested in additional butterfly pictures and identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.

Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, part of the Illinois butterfly collection
Pieridae is the formal name of the family that consists of the butterflies with white wings and yellow wings.

Yellow butterflies dominate the Illinois butterfly list. The Clouded Sulphur and Cloudless Sulphur are probably the most common yellow butterfly species in the north, including the Chicago region.

The picture shows a Barred Yellow butterfly.

picture of a Cabbage White Butterfly
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Cabbage White butterflies are the most common white butterflies in Illinois. Their caterpillars feed on plants from the cabbage family.

Olympia Marbles are small butterflies of prairies and open forests. Larvae feed on a few plants in the mustard family. They are early bird butterflies, flying for only one month in the year.

Falcate Orangetip
Olympia Marble
Cabbage White
Checkered White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Southern Dogface
Cloudless Sulphur
Orange-barred Sulphur
Mexican Yellow
Little Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of a Bronze Copper butterfly
The picture shows a Bronze Copper. They can most often be found near areas with water, including roadside ditches and ponds across the state.

picture of a Summer Azure butterfly
The Eastern Tailed-blue and Azures are the most common of the Illinois blue butterflies. Mostly because their larvae have flexible diets of common plants such as peas.

The picture shows a Summer Azure. Both species are fairly easy to identify by the chevron markings on the wings.

picture of a Banded Hairstreak, credit Andy Rego, Flickr
Like most states, Illinois has a large number of hairstreak butterflies. They are the ones with the small extension or tail feature on the wings.

Most of the species are regional oriented. The Gray Hairstreak bucks that trend and is the most common hairstreak species in the United States.

The picture shows a Banded Hairstreak. They are very common in the eastern part of the United States. Their larvae consume leaves on a few common trees such as oak, walnut and hickory.

Marine Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Spring Azure
Summer Azure
Dusky Azure
Silvery Blue
Reakirt’s Blue
Great Purple Hairstreak
Juniper Hairstreak
Hoary Elfin
Frosted Elfin
Henry’s Elfin
Eastern Pine Elfin
Oak Hairstreak
Ontario Northern
Coral Hairstreak
Acadian Hairstreak
Hickory Hairstreak
Edwards’ Hairstreak
Banded Hairstreak
Striped Hairstreak
Red-banded Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak
White-M Hairstreak
American Copper
Gray Copper
Bronze Copper
Purplish Copper

Brush Footed Butterflies

picture of an American painted Lady
Illinois hosts a nice variety of Brush Footed butterflies, as shown in the following list. Visitors can often many of them in the larger metropolitan areas around areas with flowers.

Keep an eye out for the Painted Lady in the picture. It is one of the most common butterflies in the world, often refereed to as the Cosmopolitan butterfly. Its global range can be attributed to the fact that the caterpillars are not picky eaters and will feed from many host plants.

It’s also interesting to note that whether one visits Chicago in the North or the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, there will be a fairly decent wood-nymph presence.

Brush footed
American Snout
Gulf Fritillary
Zebra Heliconian
Variegated Fritillary
Diana Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary
Regal Fritillary
Silver-bordered Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Red-spotted Purple
astyanax Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
Hackberry Emperor
Tawny Emperor
Silvery Checkerspot
Gorgone Checkerspot
Harris’ Checkerspot
Pearl Crescent
Northern Crescent
Texan Crescent
Baltimore Checkerspot
Brush footed
Common Buckeye
White Peacock
Question Mark
Eastern Comma
Green Comma
Gray Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
California Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
American Lady
Tropical Leafwing
Goatweed Leafwing
Northern Pearly-eye
Creole Pearly-eye
Eyed Brown
Appalachian Brown
Gemmed Satyr
Little Wood-Satyr
Carolina Satyr
Common Wood-Nymph

Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of a Zebra Swallowtail
The picture shows an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. They are very common because a variety of trees such as apple trees and cherry trees serve as larval hosts.

Since they are basically the only swallowtail species in Illinois with yellow wings, identification is fairly straight forward. There’s always a catch. Some females have a dark form. They can be identified by the absence of white spots on the abdomen.

Pipevine Swallowtails might be the least common in Illinois. Zebra Swallowtails can be found wherever the Pawpaw tree grows. It’s the larval host tree.

  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Zebra Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Giant Swallowtail