Iowa Butterflies: Pictures and Butterfly Identification Help

picture of a side view of a Painted Lady Butterfly, part of the Iowa butterflies section

Thanks for visiting Iowa butterflies.

Part of the heartland and breadbasket of America, Iowa also is situated about halfway in the Monarch butterfly migratory route. The folks in Iowa sure do know their insects and they are making a big effort to scientifically insure that the Monarch butterfly will always be part of the Iowa landscape.

Researchers at Iowa State University have been studying nine different Milkweed species to determine which species fit best in different Iowa habitats.

Finding habitat that does not conflict with agricultural interests and encouraging the planting of Milkweed.

picture of a side view of an American Lady Butterfly, part of the Iowa butterflies section
Less well known is the fact that researchers are also interested in another group of migratory butterflies, the four species of Vanessa butterflies: Red Admiral, American Lady, Painted Lady and West Coast Lady.

All but the West Coast Lady have a state wide distribution. They migrate to or past the state each spring for breeding and then return to the south for the winter.

The first two pictures provide a way to identify the species from a side view of the wings. The first picture shows a butterfly with four eyespots on the wing. That’s the Painted Lady. The second picture shows a butterfly with two eyespots on the wing. That’s an American Lady.

picture of a Red Admiral Butterfly, part of the Iowa butterflies section
The Red Admiral Butterfly is fairly easy to identify with the red bars through the wings. It does not look similar to the three lady butterflies.

This introduction to Iowa butterflies provides a list of species in the state along with a handful of butterfly pictures.

It divides the species into families, which also closely aligns with butterfly wing color. Visitors interested in additional butterfly pictures and information can press the green butterflies button.

Butterflies: Whites and Yellows

picture of an Orange Sulphur butterfly
Pieridae is the formal name of the family that consists of the butterflies with white wings and yellow wings.

The picture shows an Orange Sulphur Butterfly. With the exception of some of the southern species such as the Sleepy Orange, Southern Dogface and the Mexican Yellow, most of the yellow butterflies can be found throughout the state.

picture of a Checkered White Butterfly
The Olympia Marble has a range limited to the west part of the state. The other to white butterflies have a state wide presence.

The picture shows a Checkered White butterfly. Most people are familiar with the Cabbage White butterfly. It’s around gardens throughout Iowa because its larvae feeds on plants in the cabbage family, very popular back yard garden vegetables.

Olympia Marble
Cabbage White
Checkered White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Southern Dogface
Cloudless Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Mexican Yellow
Little Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur

Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers

picture of a Nelsons Juniper Hairstreak
Most of the state’s hairstreak butterflies are regionally distributed. The Coral and Banded Hairstreaks are the most common species.

Although small, the Juniper Hairstreaks are very attractive butterflies. They are typically found on and around cedar trees, the caterpillar hosts. It is distributed rather evenly in counties on the east and west parts of the state.

picture of a Rekirk's Blue butterfly
Rekirk’s, Eastern Tailed-blues and Summer Azures are the most common of Iowa’s blue butterflies. The picture shows a Rekirk’s blue.

The Marine Blue is probably the least common of the bunch, found only in a few counties.

picture of a Bronze Copper butterfly
Iowa also hosts a nice collection of Copper butterflies. The picture shows a Bronze Copper. Along with the Gray Copper, it’s one of the most widespread of the species.

Marine Blue
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Summer Azure
Silvery Blue
Reakirt’s Blue
Melissa Blue
Greenish Blue
Great Purple Hairstreak
Juniper Hairstreak
Henry’s Elfin
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 a Goatweed Leafwing butterfly
Most of the butterflies that are common in residential areas and gardens throughout the state belong to the Brush footed category. The orange wings of many species such as Snouts, Monarchy, Queens, Fritillaries are a good indication of their being Brush Footed species.

The picture shows a Goatweed Leafwing, one of the few Brush Footed species with extended appendages at the bottom of the wings. Look for it in the counties that border the south end of the state.

picture of a Pearl Crescent butterfly, part of the Iowa butterflies section
Crescents are small butterflies that are often found close to the ground. The picture shows a Pearl Crescent, one of the most widely distributed species in the state.

Brush footed
American Snout
Gulf Fritillary
Variegated Fritillary
Great Spangled Fritillary
Aphrodite Fritillary
Regal Fritillary
Silver-bordered Fritillary
Meadow Fritillary
Red-spotted Purple
arthemis White Admiral
Astyanax’ Red-spotted Purple
Hackberry Emperor
Tawny Emperor
Common Mestra
Silvery Checkerspot
Gorgone Checkerspot
Bordered Patch
Brush footed
Pearl Crescent
Tawny Crescent
Baltimore Checkerspot
Common Buckeye
Question Mark
Eastern Comma
Gray Comma
Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
Compton Tortoiseshell
Mourning Cloak
California Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
American Lady
Goatweed Leafwing
Northern Pearly-eye
Eyed Brown
Common Ringlet
Little Wood-Satyr
Common Wood-Nymph

Butterflies: Swallowtails

picture of a Zebra Swallowtail
Iowa hosts a small number of Swallowtail species. Three species are present throughout the state, the Black, Eastern Tiger SWallowtails. The picture is of a Zebra Swallowtail, a very uncommon species mostly found in one Southwestern County. Occasional strays can sometimes be found.
  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Zebra Swallowtail
  • Black Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Giant Swallowtail